§ [12TH ALLOTTED DAY.]
§ Considered in Committee.
§ Sir DENNIS HERBERT in the Chair.]
§ CIVIL ESTIMATES, 1941.
§ UNCLASSIFIED SERVICES.
§ MINISTRY OF INFORMATION.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £90, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1942, for the salaries and expenses of the Ministry of Information" [Note. — £10 has been voted on account.]
§ The Chairman
There are, as the Committee is aware, four Votes on the Order Paper to-day, dealing with the Ministry of Information, the Foreign Office, Diplomatic and Consular Services, and Broadcasting. I am given to understand that these four Votes have been put down in the hope that they may all be dealt with together, in order to give wider scope for discussion. Cases have not infrequently occurred before in which we have taken more than one Vote at a time in order to allow for wide discussion. It is, to use a common phrase, rather a tall order to ask that the four Votes, referring to at least two, if not three, different Ministries, might be taken together, but in the circumstances of the time the House is getting rather accustomed, I hope not too much so, to doing unusual things, and I am prepared to allow discussion to range over all these four Votes, provided—and this must be so—it is done with the general assent of the Committee.
§ The Lord President of the Council (Sir John Anderson)
I think it will be for the convenience of the Committee as a whole, and more particularly of hon. Members who hope to take part in the Debate, if they have at the outset a state-meat made on behalf of the War Cabinet, indicating, in the first place, the War Cabinet's conception of the scope and nature of the functions of the Ministry of 1530 Information and its relations with other Departments, and, in the second place, the arrangements made, or proposed to be made, to enable the Ministry effectively to discharge those functions. It is for this reason only that I have risen to open the Debate, and I shall not detain the Committee for long.
The work of the Ministry of Information is varied and many-sided, but I think it can all be brought under one or other of three heads. Firstly, there is news and censorship; secondly, there is general publicity in this country; and, thirdly, there is propaganda in foreign countries. These three functions interact one with another, and there are points at which one will lend to merge into another—for example, a rapid and effective news service is one of the most effective weapons of propaganda in foreign countries. Nevertheless, these functions are in the main separable and, as different considerations and different criticisms apply to each, I propose to deal with each separately.
First, let me deal with news and censorship. It can be taken to be the settled policy of the Government that war news shall reach the public as fully and as quickly as is consistent with national security. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made it clear on more than one occasion that the Government have no interest in concealing the truth, be it good or bad, from our own people, and no desire to doctor the news in any way. We do not believe in suppressing or delaying bad news so far as our own people are concerned—we know they can take it. We are all together in this war, and the Government believe our people will fight all the better, and endure all the better what they may have to endure, if they are told the facts, good or bad, as fully and as quickly as possible. And, as I have said, for people abroad, both friends and neutrals, and those in the grip of the enemy, so far as we can reach them, one of our best propaganda weapons is to be first with the news—the true facts —as fully and as quickly as we can get them across. But there is one important qualification: We have to think all the time of the enemy. News travels fast, and telling our own people involves telling the enemy. Examples will rapidly occur to hon. Members. For instance, news of an operation in progress may disclose prematurely a broad strategical 1531 design. And there are many cases where the necessity of withholding or delaying news would be clear to everyone if it were possible to explain all the relevant facts. The Government are anxious that our people should have the fullest and most expeditious news service, but the essential interests of national security must be safeguarded, and items of news, however interesting, must be suppressed or temporarily withheld if their publication would be of value to the enemy.
On the one hand, therefore, the Minister of Information must be constantly alert and active in collecting and exploiting to the full the facilities available for assembling and disseminating news of all kinds about the progress of the war. The issue of all news and official communiqué's will continue, as in the past, to be canalised through the Ministry of Information, and it will be the duty of all Departmental Ministers, from the sources of news at their disposal, to keep the Minister of Information fully supplied with all available news and information. This is a matter on which the Cabinet have given the most explicit directions. On the other hand, the Service Ministers must retain their ultimate right of withholding the publication of any particular item of news, when they are satisfied that its publication would be contrary to the interests of national security. This right must be reserved to them, subject to the War Cabinet, of course, because they alone have at their disposal all the information, both on the broad strategical issues, and on matters of technical detail, without knowledge of which an informed decision cannot be taken on these security questions.
§ Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)
Can my right hon. Friend tell us whether his speech means there is to be no change in the procedure?
§ Sir J. Anderson
Perhaps my hon. Friend will have just a little patience. I am well aware that controversy has centred around this right of veto, but there is no desire on the part of the Government to burke this issue. It is said that it means imposing a substantial and unnecessary handicap on the Ministry of Information, but the Government do not accept that view. The real issue is not disagreement between the Minister of 1532 Information and a Service Minister on security grounds. The real issue is the practical difficulty that has far too often been experienced in the past in getting speedy decisions. The essence of the business of handling news is to decide quickly. If the question whether a particular news item may be passed for publication has to be referred to a Service Department and pass through all the usual channels, the news will be stale and the opportunity lost before the decision is reached. Again, there is nothing in the training of the average Service officer to make him particularly news-minded. It is his very natural and proper tendency, in any case of doubt, to advise against publication. To meet these difficulties special arrangements are being made with the object of ensuring quick decisions. Let me describe those arrangements, quite briefly. First, the three Service Departments will each maintain in the Ministry of Information an officer of seniority and standing, who, except when matters of the highest policy are involved, can himself take responsibility for passing any particular item of news for publication.
§ Sir J. Anderson
Yes. Secondly, each Service Minister has agreed that important issues of policy which cannot be decided by his representative on the spot, that is, in the Ministry of Information, may be referred for immediate decision to him or, if he is not available, to an official of the highest standing in his Department specially designated to give decisions on his behalf. Thirdly, the Cabinet have laid down that the right of veto is not to be exercised unreasonably and that a final decision must not be unduly delayed. I should like to make it quite clear that only the Service Minister himself or, in his absence, the official designated to take decisions on his behalf will be entitled to override the view of the Minister of Information in favour of the publication of a particular item of news. I think these arrangements will be found in practice to mark a substantial improvement, and the War Cabinet will watch the results closely and will be ready to review the working of the system in case there should be any hitch or ground for dissatisfaction. The Cabinet obviously can, and constantly 1533 does, exescise its power of reviewing and overriding decisions where there are differences of opinion between one Minister and another, and there are constantly quite legitimate differences of opinion arising from the different interests entrusted to the charge of different Ministers, but the essence of the thing here is speed. The ordinary method of Cabinet decision is not adequate. The essence is speed, and it is to meet that difficulty that the special arrangements that I have described have been made.
I should like to say a word about the difficulty of those at the Ministry of Information who have to carry out this day-to-day work of following the news. I will mention no names, but there are many men in that Ministry of eminence in other walks of life who have made great sacrifices to undertake a difficult, and often thankless, task, entirely from a sense of public duty. I fully realise that their burden would have been lightened if it had been possible to leave the final decision in all cases to be taken within the Ministry, but this could not be, for reasons which I have explained. I have no doubt that the system which has been devised, carried out as it will be with good will on all sides, will be found to give the Ministry the greatest measure of freedom compatible with the duty of the Service Ministers to safeguard security interests. I have equally no doubt that all concerned will put forth their best efforts to ensure its success.
I turn now to home publicity. Here I should like to define the scope and functions of the Ministry. It is their business, as the Government view the matter, to publicise and interpret Government policy in relation to the war, to help to sustain public morale and to stimulate the war effort, and to maintain a steady flow of facts and opinions calculated to further the policy of the Government in the prosecution of the war. That is an active and not a passive role. Many Departments, however, have their own publicity branches, their own public relations officers and Press officers, and there is a problem here of deciding what falls within the sphere of the Ministry of Information and what should continue to be done by individual Departments. Some critics have suggested that the Ministry of Information should take over from the Departments all publicity work of every 1534 kind, all work connected with the presentation to the public of the policy and administration of the Departments. I think experience has shown clearly that such an arrangement would in fact satisfy nobody. It would not meet the requirements of the Departments, and we know from experience that the Press would be the first to object if they were cut off from direct contacts with the Departments. The problem is in fact one of delimiting frontiers, and certain principles have been laid down by the Cabinet in that matter. It has been reaffirmed that Departments which have public relations officers and Press officers are to preserve their existing contacts with the Press in relation to all matters of a purely Departmental nature. Their officers will issue Departmental publications and directions to the public on Departmental affairs, the Ministry of Information, of course, continuing, as in the past, to be available to help so far as may be mutually convenient.
On the other hand, the Ministry of Information will act, in co-operation with the Departments concerned, as the one central agency for the conduct of all pub licity—through the medium of the Press, films, posters, or the B.B.C. —which affects more than one Department or sub serves the policy of the Government as a whole. To this end all Ministers will ensure that their public relations officers collaborate fully and effectively with one another and with the Ministry of Inform a tion in the organisation and conduct of propaganda relating to the prosecution of the war. In any inter-Departmental work—this is a point that I want to stress these officers will function, not independently, but as members of a team under the chairmanship of the Minister of Information, furthering the purposes and policy of that Ministry. That is an important change. In this way all the experts in publicity now employed on Government work, many of them men who have had wide experience in the commercial world and have great know ledge and skill in the handling of publicity questions, will in future not only serve the needs of their Departmental Ministers, as they have done in the past, but will now be enabled also to play their part in our general publicity on the home front under the leadership of the Ministry of Information.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
If I understand the right hon. Gentleman in the "Dig for Victory" campaign, for example, the posters in the Press were done exclusively by the Ministry of Agriculture Press department. If there was a campaign which affected more than one Department, the Ministry would do it in consultation with the two or more Departments involved.
§ Sir J. Anderson
Taking the hon. Gentleman's illustration, the responsibility for the "Dig for Victory" campaign will rest primarily with the Department, which has its own publicity organisation. But the Ministry of Information will be available to help, as it has done in many cases, and closer and better day-to-day relations between the publicity officers of the Departments and the Ministry of Information will, I think, have the result of extending the scope within which arrangements made by the Ministry of Information can be made to serve Departmental interests. On the other hand, where the general policy of the Government as such is involved, and particularly where the interests of more than one Department are involved, the primary responsibility for undertaking and organising the necessary publicity work will rest with the Minister of Information.
§ Sir J. Anderson
No, not at all. The Press and public relations officers of the Department are entirely separate from the Ministry of Information.
§ Mr. Vernon Bartlett (Bridgwater)
Does this mark any change at all? Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that in the past there has been no consultation between the Press officers of the Government Departments when there has been a problem affecting more than one Ministry? Surely that has been done by the Ministry of Information.
§ Sir J. Anderson
Of course, there has been consultation in the past, but we are not satisfied that there has been sufficient consultation. Further, a Press or public relations officer in a Department has had a responsibility solely to his own Minister for work done in connection with the work 1536 of that particular Department. We are going to pool that very valuable experience, and we are going to see that the Departmental officers concerned with Press and publicity affairs function in future as a team for the purposes of general publicity work, under the leadership of the Minister of Information.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Kilmarnock)
Do I understand that the main difference between the old system and the new is that they are going to have a weekly meeting under the chairmanship of the Minister of Information himself, or what is it precisely that will be done?.
§ Viscountess Astor
It means you have the same thing, only these young men, or old men, are to be tied to Bloomsbury.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I do not know whether the Noble Lady is making a distinction between Whitehall and Bloomsbury.
§ Viscountess Astor
They live in Bloomsbury, and they are tied to Whitehall. That is the distinction.
§ Sir J. Anderson
It is not a question of their meeting once a week under the chairmanship of the Ministry of Information. It is a question of establishing for the future the closest relations between the Press and publicity officers in the Departments and the officers in the Ministry of Information, so as to pool all experience and resources, and focus all efforts on the general task of conducting as effectively as possible the publicity work of the Government.
§ Sir J. Anderson
That will be a matter to be arranged. ' The Minister of Information will determine the chairmanship.
I pass now to the question of propaganda in foreign countries. I think that here the main line of criticism has been that a number of different agencies are' at work, without apparently any single control. The suggestion has been made that the Ministry of Information should be given the sole responsibility for foreign propaganda. That, however, is a suggestion which overlooks entirely one vital consideration. Foreign propaganda must be in line with foreign policy. In regard to foreign policy, the dominant position must be occupied by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, subject, as always, 1537 to the War Cabinet. Therefore, it must continue to be the duty of the Foreign Secretary to indicate the target at which our foreign propaganda is to be aimed. The means by which that target should be reached are primarily a matter for the Minister of Information. In order to ensure that the necessary guidance on matters of foreign policy shall be at all times available to the Minister of Information, in a situation liable to sudden change, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has decided to appoint an additional Deputy Undersecretary in his Department specially charged with responsibilities in this regard. He has selected Mr. Bruce Lockhart for this purpose.
§ Sir J. Anderson
Carrying out their work in this field of foreign propaganda, the Ministry of Information can count upon the co-operation of other Departments and agencies which have special interests at stake or special contributions to make. For example, the Ministry of Economic Warfare are closely concerned in the economic aspects of our propaganda to foreign countries. For this purpose they keep in touch with the work of the Ministry of Information and, of course, with the Foreign Office. Another agency hitherto entirely detached is the British Council. Most of their activities are educational and cultural, and these will continue as at present. They have, however, some propaganda activities, and these will in future be carried on subject to the prior approval of the Minister of Information, who will appoint a special officer to keep in touch with the Council. All the film work of the Council will be carried out in consultation with the Ministry of Information.
I began by saying that I proposed to confine myself to an account of the decisions reached by His Majesty's Government in this matter. I shall conclude with a brief summary of the changes made and of the purpose which lies behind them. There is no difference between the Government and those who stress the all-important part to be played by publicity and propaganda. The difference lies in the conception of the most effective machine for that purpose. There are some who would wish to see all the staff 1538 and all the machinery for publicity, in formation and propaganda taken away from the various Departments and collected together into a single Ministry, which would perform all the information and propaganda services of the Government under a Minister clothed with supreme powers in that field, subject only to the direction of the War Cabinet. Such a scheme might seem attractive at first sight, because of the simplicity of the conception—
§ Sir J. Anderson
—but it would not be either a sensible or a practicable scheme. If propaganda is of such far-reaching importance as we believe it to be, how can it be dealt with as an entirely separate subject, in isolation from foreign policy, defence and the other multifarious activities of the State?
§ Mr. Shinwell (Seaham)
Would not that point be met if the Minister of Information were a member of the War Cabinet?
§ Sir J. Anderson
I would ask the hon. Member what purpose would be served if the Minister of Information were in the War Cabinet. Would he be there in order that, apart from his Departmental functions, which I should have thought were fully sufficient to engage the attentions of any one man, he should share with other members of the War Cabinet the wider responsibilities for the conduce of the war? Or would he be there in order that he should exercise the authority of a member of the War Cabinet, and so be in a position to override Service Ministers who are not members of the War Cabinet?
§ Sir J. Anderson
Certainly, and the War Cabinet is accessible to the Minister of Information. But, as I explained, in matters in which the urgent presentation of news is most important the time factor necessitates making special arrangements which will reconcile the necessity for prompt news with the interests of security. I do not think we should make any advance along those lines by making the Minister of Information a member of the War Cabinet. What we have sought 1539 to do is to build on the lessons of experience. We have retained the links between the Ministry of Information and Departments of State where we believe those links are essential. We have allowed Departments to retain publicity machinery to deal with matters of Departmental concern. While preserving only the minimum of control necessary to safeguard the vital interests of security and the responsible direction of foreign policy, we have sought to strengthen the position and authority of the Ministry of Information, to develop the resources available to it for the effective performance of its task —to ensure a rapid service of news and to publicise and interpret Government policy over the whole field. No doubt the Nazi propaganda machine is most formidable.
§ Sir J. Anderson
By comparison with the Nazi machine, our efforts in this sphere may often seem puny and half hearted. But we have those powerful allies, truth and fair dealing, for which the psychology of fear is no match.
§ Mr. Stokes: (Ipswich)
On a point of Order. May I call attention to the fact that the Minister appears to be reading his speech? Would it not be more for the convenience of the Committee if we had copies of it?
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member will please keep in Order himself and sit down when I rise. If the right hon. Gentleman were not in Order, I should have called him to Order.
§ Sir J. Anderson
If we look round and see what the free peoples of the world, those that remain, are thinking and feeling, what do we find? Whose word commands confidence? Whose outlook and way of life win sympathy and support? The arrangements we have now made, which we believe to be soundly conceived, may not prove to be the last word. We are prepared to live and learn. If unexpected difficulties arise, the Cabinet can always review the situation afresh. I have stated what the plan is, without attempting to gloss over the difficulties. We believe that it is along the lines I have indicated that solid progress is most likely to be made.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Do I understand from my right hon. Friend's statement that no change is to be made in the present arrangements about the foreign broadcasts, the functions of the B.B.C., and the relations of them to the Ministry and the Foreign Office?
§ Sir J. Anderson
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Information has stated more than once that the B.B.C. looks for and receives from the Minister of Information guidance on all matters concerned with the prosecution of the war. I think it would be more convenient if any questions that hon Members may wish to put in regard to the details of the work of the Ministry of Information, with which I cannot be familiar, could be reserved for the Minister of Information to deal with when he winds up the Debate.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Am I right in thinking that the Cabinet have made no new decision and that the arrangement will continue as hitherto without change?
§ Mr. Bernays (Bristol, North)
This Debate raises questions of organisation and policy. We have heard a weighty pronouncement from the Lord President of the Council. I have listened carefully to it. It is difficult to follow upon it immediately, but I am bound to say that the changes which he has proposed are remarkably small. The mountain has been in labour, but it has scarcely produced a mouse. The statement which has been made will do very little to allay the public misgiving with regard to the efficiency of our news and propaganda. The best thing my right hon. Friend said in his speech was that it was not the last word of the Government. The main point at issue is that what we dislike in the organisation of the Ministry of Information is the divorce of power from responsibility. The issue of news remains, it is confirmed, in the control of the Service Ministries. What does that mean? It means that the Service Ministers make decisions for which the Minister of Information has to be responsible in this House. That intolerable position is unaltered. It will still be possible to chase my right hon. Friend on an Adjournment Motion or in a Supply Debate on decisions for which he will have to answer in the 1541 House although he will have no more responsibility for them than a Post Office clerk has for the contents of the letters that he sorts.
The Government, I suggest, have had two courses of action before them. They could have given the power of the issue of news to the Minister of Information and made him responsible to the War Cabinet, or they could have given it to the Service Ministers and made them responsible in this House. Instead of that, they have left the power with the Service Ministers and the responsibility with the Minister of Information. I am not advocating for a moment that the Service Departments should surrender their position completely to civilian control, but it is clear, and my right hon. Friend recognises it, that somebody must resolve this perpetual conflict between security on the one hand and publicity on the other. We all know that the publication of news is being held up by a continuous system of stops issued by the Service Departments. I am told, for instance, that it is not possible to publish a picture of a tank unless it is ten years obsolete. Machinery for reviewing these stops is necessary, and I am glad that the Government realise that an arbiter is needed. I am sorry, however, to hear that he is to be a Service Minister and not the Minister of Information subject to the War Cabinet. In these questions of security and publicity it may be that certain information will be of value to the enemy, but we have to weigh against that the value that: the information will be to the morale of this country. That is not a question for a Service Minister to decide. I suggest it is a question for the Minister of Information to decide, subject to the War Cabinet.
Coming to the position of the Minister of Information in the War Cabinet, the Lord President of the Council said, '' What would be the point of his being a Member of the War Cabinet? "The point is that if he were a Member of the War Cabinet he would be the ambassador of the news to the War Cabinet, and he would be able, in the War Cabinet, with the assistance of his colleagues to resolve those vital questions of security and publicity. The same considerations apply to propaganda. There should be centralised direction. I fully admit the point made by the Lord President of the Council that it is difficult to separate propaganda from 1542 policy. Clearly, the Foreign Secretary must give directives, but the place for him to give those directives is the War Cabinet. I understand the present position is that the Minister of Information is to receive his directives from a deputy-Under-Secretary. Apparently he is to receive his directives from Mr. Bruce Lockhart. That is an intolerable position.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I did not say that at all. I said that, in order to assist in providing the Ministry of Information with prompt information and direction, in a situation which might be rapidly changing, the Foreign Secretary had appointed an officer specially charged with responsibility in these matters. Ministerial responsibility will, of course, continue to rest with the Foreign Secretary, and as between him and the Minister of Information, the directives will be given by the Foreign Secretary.
§ Mr. Bernays
I am much obliged to my right hon. Friend, but directives are surely orders. There is no distinction. I am glad to have the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman that the Foreign Secretary will give the directives, but that does not satisfy me personally. The Minister of Information is a first-class Minister. A first-class Minister does not receive his directives from another Minister but from the War Cabinet. It is unprecedented that the Foreign Secretary should give orders to another Minister. The only precedent I can recall is when the present Foreign Secretary was Minister for the League of Nations and when he received his directives from the present Lord Chancellor. I do not think that arrangement was satisfactory to either of them and I am sorry that it is to be adopted here.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but there is a misunderstanding. Perhaps he will not mind if I tell him the facts. It is not uncommon to have two Cabinet Ministers who are concerned with a particular matter of policy. One of those Ministers does not over-ride the views or the directions of the other, within the other Minister's sphere. What the Foreign Secretary does in the present case is not to give directions to the Minister of Information in matters which are within the sphere of responsibility of the Minister of Information, but he lays down principles and points of foreign policy, and it 1543 is then the responsibility of the Minister of Information to take note of and recognise these considerations of foreign policy, which the Foreign Secretary lays down on his own responsibility. There is no question of subordinating one Minister to the other.
§ Mr. Bernays
I am very much obliged to my right hon. Friend for his interruption, but I was only quoting his words. He said: "Directives from the Foreign Secretary" I think the matter has been cleared up. They are directives from the Foreign Secretary through the War Cabinet.
§ Mr. Bernays
Why should not all news and propaganda be the responsibility of the Minister of Information subject to the War Cabinet? My right hon. Friend said that that system would not work, but I understand that it was instituted in the early part of 1918, after several errors had been made. If the system satisfied Mr. Balfour, the Foreign Secretary at that time, I cannot understand why it should not satisfy the present Foreign Secretary.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I am exceedingly sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend once again, but his statement is not accurate. He said that the system worked in the last war. What we were discussing a moment ago was the relative positions of -the Minister of Information and certain of his colleagues, not in relation to propaganda at large, but in relation to news. In the last war, the responsibility for news was not that of any Minister of Information but of a special organisation set up under the Home Secretary. It was very rare for any difference of opinion to arise with the Service Departments.
§ Mr. Bernays
There is to be a winder-up of this Debate, and perhaps if I make misstatements it will be possible for the Minister of Information to correct them and to give me a severe time. I may be entirely wrong, but I have authority for these statements. I have made some investigation myself, and I understand that the system I have advocated was in 1544 operation in 1918. I shall be very interested to hear in what respects the system in 1918 differed from the position as I have stated it.
I believe that the entry of Russia into the war has made political warfare 10 times more important than it was before, for the reasons that it has created, perhaps only temporarily, a certain confusion in the minds of other countries. I therefore suggest that centralised direction is all the more important, but instead of centralised direction it seems that we have a clumsy monster stretching right across Whitehall. It reminds me of the brontosaurus, which was, I believe, 60 feet long and weighed some 60 tons, but it had a very small brain and a very slender spinal cord. I want my right hon. Friend the Minister of Information to be the brain and spinal cord. There is nothing new in the proposals I am making. They have constantly been advocated in the Press, which is almost unanimous on them, and they have constantly been advocated in Debates in this House, but what has been the result of it all? Nothing has really happened at all, except that the Minister of Information seems to have rather less powers than he had before.
This Debate has been postponed in order that the Government might declare a policy. We heard of a great battle going on in Blooms-bury, and as a result, apparently, all that has happened is that my right hon. Friend has lost the battle. It is not a compromise, it is a defeat. It was clear from the speech of the Lord President of the Council that he had a certain sympathy with the case of the Minister of Information. I felt that he was trying, within the terms of the Government's policy, to go as far as he could. He gave assurances, for instance, that greater attention would be paid to the Ministry of Information's demand for news. But it is the organisation and machinery which are wrong, and good intentions will not put that right. It is the onus for the publication of news that needs shifting. I think the House and the country feel a sense of frustration with regard to the Ministry of Information, and I believe that that sense of frustration will be increased as a result of the Government's proposals. Admittedly, organisation is only the servant of policy, but nothing surely can hamper policy more than a 1545 division of responsibility, and I believe such a division exists.
I want to test that by one or two examples. Take the description by the Prime Minister of the invasion of Russia as the fourth great climacteric of the war. Here I may say that we. are living in a time of great urgency, and I must confess that I found an absence of a sense of urgency in the speech of the Lord President of the Council. What contacts have been made with Russia? Have we got a Press Attache in Moscow? We have a military mission in Moscow; when is the propaganda mission starting? The realm of ideas may be almost as important as the realm of arms. Is my right hon. Friend awaiting a directif from the Foreign Secretary? Has he got it yet? I come now to that superb speech made by the Prime Minister last Sunday night in which it was absolutely astonishing how, in a few hours, the; Prime Minister was able to get that immense event into the right perspective and put it to the world. What has been done since? I understand there has been no B.B.C. broadcast in Russian at all. I am informed—my information may be out of date—that there is no Russian Section at the Ministry of Information. I can understand that some months ago there may have been considerable objection from the Russian Embassy and the Russian Government to the establishment of a Russian Section, but surely when the Prime Minister warned Stalin of the coming attack he warned the Minister of Information too, and what was done about it? Is my right hon. Friend still awaiting a directif from the Foreign Secretary, and has the Foreign Secretary put a veto on it?
There seems to be a certain distrust by the Government of the power of ideas as expressed in words. It is strange, coming from a Government which has at its head a supreme master of political warfare. But are even his own speeches being given their full propaganda value? There was that blistering attack on the new order delivered at St. James's Palace. It was a tremendous occasion: the Monarch himself was there in person to welcome and dispense hospitality to the heads of the Governments and to representatives of the Empire, who pledged themselves to battle through to victory. 1546 What wonderful propaganda Hitler would have made of such an occasion if he could have got together a congress of Quislings! But, beyond the speech of the. Prime Minister, do we really know anything more about that great occasion? There was no adequate preliminary publicity; it was arranged in a hurry, and millions never heard the speech of the Prime Minister because they did not know he was going to broadcast. And does the House recall the extraordinarily inept close on the wireless? "You have been listening to the Prime Minister. The news will follow in a few minutes. The postscript will be on 'Shelter in your Homes.' "I felt, after the Prime Minister's speech, that if parachutists had come down then, I would have gone out and fought them with a curtain pole, and yet all I was advised to do was to take special precautions for shelter in my home. Surely the postscript was on a platter—a description of the magnificent scene, the like of which has never been witnessed before?
I have another criticism to make. Did not the representatives of the Allied Governments speak on that occasion? Did not the Empire have a word to say? The wireless told us nothing, and when I opened my "Times" next morning, all I found was an official statement by the Foreign Office, giving the names of the people who had spoken but not a word of what they had said. Never was so great an occasion worse handled from the point of view of publicity. Who was responsible? Was it the Ministry of In-formation or the Foreign Office, or was it a mixture of both, and did the one think the other was doing the job? I suggest that it is a glaring example of what happens when you have divided responsibility.
I come now to the question of political warfare in general. Recent events make that task more vital. Germany is clearly reconciling herself to a long war. The longer the war, probably, the longer the length of Germany's communications and the more vital the task of straining German administration through the inspiration and direction of the B.B.C, first in relation to the silent strike, and then, when opportunity offers, in the general uprising. But are we doing this? The numbers of hours devoted to foreign 1547 broadcasts are, of course, very impressive, but what are we telling the captive peoples in these broadcasts? We are telling them about food, and that is excellent. We are telling them that all the preparations are made and that in the wake of the victorious Armies will come large' consignments of food, and that must be very heartening news. But are we telling them what we propose to do with the Germans—and when I say "Germans" I mean Germans, and not the Nazis—when victory is achieved? I cannot believe that we are, because I do not think that we yet know ourselves. That is what the captives want to know. They want to know how we are going to end the German menace, what are our proposals for European security. We need a far more definite policy behind our propaganda, a policy worked out in the Cabinet, and given to my right hon. Friend to propagate to Europe. I believe that such a policy could bind our listeners into the most powerful secret society of revolution ever known in the world.
While on the subject of policy, I would like to say a word on propaganda at home. My right hon. Friend said that the Government had no interest in concealing the news. I do not think that is the view of the public as a whole. They feel they are being molly-coddled. They feel that the Government think that they cannot stand bad news, but a remarkable fact is the way in which the British people thrive on bad news. It is defeats rather than victories that we recall. Far more is known about the retreat from Mons in 1914 than of the advance to Mons in 1918. I regret, myself, that those words "alarm" and ''despondency" were ever bracketed together. They suggest that alarm creates despondency. It does not. Alarm is the spur to endeavour. There is the old Shakespearean stage direction Alarums and excursions—movement, action; I believe that is the effect which alarm has on our people. When did the Prime Minister say that this was our finest hour? When we stood alone. It is only now. when, from the West, we get increasing news of more and more help coming to us, and, from the East, we hear the tremendous struggle which the Russian people are at this moment engaged in 1548 against the forces of evil, it is now that there is a danger, in all classes, of our war effort slackening. If, for instance, there is—and I do not know whether there is or not—a fall in productivity, I do not know why the Government should not say so. It might give information to the enemy, but, on the other hand, it would undoubtedly be an increased spur to our people, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Information is certainly the last person who ought to be afraid of alarming the public. I remember his speech many years before the war in Paris, when he said that we ought to be frightened out of our wits by the situation. Perhaps if we had been frightened out of our wits, we should have taken more drastic action to meet it. I hope we shall have an assurance that bad news will not be glossed over.
Here again one comes up against the Minister's lack of power. He has no control over the B.B.C. presentation of news. The public is quite convinced that the B.B.C. is the Minister of Information; I understand that he has only a liaison officer there. He can give advice, but he ought to be able to give direction. What a life it must be for the Minister of Information, after working all day long to urge some decision or course of action, to have to come to this House, when that decision goes against him, and defend the decision forced upon him by another Department. The blunt fact is surely that the Ministry of Information lacks self-confidence, and that it lacks public confidence. It lacks self-confidence, I suggest, because its functions are so limited; it lacks public confidence because it has not got sufficient authority. The position is worse now, after the Government statement, than it was before. The battle has been joined, and the battle has been lost. The Service Ministers are confirmed in their position of control; the Foreign Office is stronger, not weaker. There is to be no propaganda, as far as I can understand it, without the consent of somebody else. I regret that my right hon. Friend has lost this battle. I know that scorn has been poured on the Ministry of Information. I think it has done some things very well. I think its film service is excellent. It has developed a new technique in the very short film, which combines instruction and information and exhortation and in no way irritates the audience. I think that many aspects of its speaking 1549 campaign have served a very useful purpose. It has handled the Press censorship admirably. Here, a tribute is really due to the Press for the admirable way in which, without any compulsion, they have submitted to voluntary self-discipline.
But the battle has gone against the Minister, and I do beg the Government to reconsider the decisions which they have reached. If they really will not, I cannot see much use for the Ministry of Information at all. It ought to be a first-class weapon of offence and defence, but it has degenerated into a sort of war-time organisation of universal aunts—or perhaps Aunt Sallies would be a better description If each Ministry is to be responsible for its own news and propaganda, let them be answerable to this House. If the First Lord of the Admiralty, or the Secretary of State for War, or the Secretary of State for Air, issues news, controls news, let them come down to this House and be responsible for what they have done. I cannot see why a staff of 1,400 men and women is required for what really does not amount to very much more than a glorified Stationery Office. It was said of another place at a time of acute political controversy, "End them, or mend them." I say that to the Government, with all respect, with regard to the Ministry of Information: End it, or mend it—but, really, mend it, give it authority, give it influence, give it prestige.
§ Mr. Gammans (Hornsey)
Might I crave the indulgence which the House generously accords to a Member who addresses it for the first time? I think it is true to say that the country is more perturbed about the Ministry of Information than about any other Government Department. I doubt if the statement just made by the Lord President of the Council will do very much to remove that misgiving. This Ministry is criticised for the news which it gives, and does not give, and for the way in which it presents news. There is also grave misgiving about propaganda in neutral countries and against the enemy. I want to suggest that it is very difficult for any Ministry to continue in the face of such a barrage of criticism and misgiving. Even now the trouble has not been met, because it is fundamental. There is a vague idea in many people's minds that the main function of this Ministry is the presentation of 1550 news and censorship work. Important as that may be, surely its main job is an entirely different one: to present to the world the British case—in other words, to explain why we have entered this war, and why we propose to continue with it until victory is won. That is nothing more or less than propaganda. Why not use the word, and have done with it? We should surely be the last people to boggle at the word "propaganda." It is a weapon of war, and a very potent one— and one which we very largely invented.
It is a sobering thought that of the three weapons of war which have brought Hitler his greatest successes, the tank, propaganda, and the aeroplane, we were largely responsible for the invention of the tank and of propaganda, and it was we, with the largest Air Force in Europe—which we proceeded to throw away—who taught the Germans the meaning and the potency of aircraft. If we have any doubts that propaganda is a weapon of war, surely we have only to see what has happened on the Continent of Europe. It is very largely this weapon which, together with fifth columns, got Hitler into Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Rumania without firing a shot, and paved the way for the invasion of Norway, which undermined resistance in the Low countries, and which played no small part in the downfall of France. In this way, the Germans, in sprawling themselves across Europe, have lost fewer men than in the one battle of Verdun in the last war. The difference lies in the use of propaganda as a weapon of war. Is it not against that background, and against those achievements of the enemy, that we ought to consider the work of the Ministry of Information? Can we honestly say that our propaganda is as effective as theirs has been? We are sometimes told in this House that there are 1,300 or 1,400 men employed by this Ministry. It would not worry me if there were 13,000, if we were getting the results that the Germans have got. I believe that Germany has spent about £50,000,000 a year on propaganda as a weapon of war. I suggest that on no other weapon of war have they got anything like the same dividends.
The work of the Ministry appears to me to divide itself, on the propaganda side, under three heads—its propaganda, or its work, on the home front, its propaganda 1551 in neutral countries, and its propaganda against the enemy. Much could be said on each of these. The Lord President of the Council has reminded the House of the responsibilities of the Ministry on the home front. I need not remind the House that perhaps the greatest difference between this war and the last is that in this war we are fighting on four fronts, and not on three. Our fourth front is in action, and is likely to remain so until the end of the war. It is the most vulnerable of all our fronts. It is composed of people of both sexes and of all ages, without the stimulus of discipline. It is under a considerable strain. The strain of separation of men from their families is common to all wars; but, in addition, there is the strain of evacuation and of indiscriminate bombing. If the Ministry of Information has a responsibility towards that front, I suggest that that should be very clearly stated.
As to the Ministry's propaganda on the neutral front, I think it is fair to suggest that it has lacked vigour, virility, and vision. I hold the view that more vigorous propaganda in the first winter of the war against Italy would have made it more difficult for Mussolini to have dragged the Italian people in on the side of Hitler. However, it is not much good to talk about that. On the neutral front, our thoughts at the moment chiefly centre on the United States. While I would be the first to admit that nothing would have been more foolish in the early days of the war than to have given the impression to America that we were trying to jockey her into the war, I think the situation has changed so much that we should now consider changing our policy towards America. I wonder whether the Government propose to ask members of the great trade union movement in this country to speak to their opposite numbers in America about their conviction, which they have held throughout the war, that what we are fighting for is not only liberty in the abstract, but all that trade unionism stands for and has fought for for the last 100 years.
When it comes to propaganda against the enemy, I never forget a most significant passage which appears in "Mein Kampf." I believe that it represents all that Hitler understands by modern warfare. He tells us that the modern war is 1552 won by revolutionary propaganda designed to break down the enemy psychology by creating confusion, fomenting distrust, and, above all, driving a wedge between the people and their leaders. By that standard, can we honestly be satisfied that what we are saying to Germany is likely to create confusion, foment distrust, or drive a wedge between the people and their leaders? Surely, we are up against a great primary difficulty in the reluctance of the German people to listen. Our propaganda must be so sound psychologically and must so arouse their curiosity that they will be prepared to brave the Gestapo to listen. I have always felt that our propaganda towards Germany can be divided under two main heads—our long-term propaganda and our short-term propaganda. As to our long-term propaganda, cannot we assure the Germans, in and out of season, of two things? The first is that they cannot win the war. There is too much in the way of material resources in this country, the Empire, and now the United States; and too much, too, in the way of moral force. I think it was the Prime Minister who reminded this House a short time ago that the German people, from Hitler downwards, suffer from an inferiority complex. There are probably hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Germans in Germany to-day who have a sneaking feeling that, though Hitler may have sprawled himself across the Continent of Europe, it has not brought them peace or prosperity, and that in the end it will bring them defeat. Would not long-term propaganda on the lines I have suggested work on that innate feeling of the German people. Surely, too, we should remind them that they are becoming the most hated race that the world has seen. Wherever their soldiers go, they are boycotted and detested. They are laying up for themselves the most terrible retribution that the world has ever seen.
As to short-term propaganda, is this not a question of exploiting to the full each event as it comes along, and, above all, exploiting it quickly? That is why I doubt whether the arrangement which the Lord President has explained will, in fact, meet the case. It is rather difficult to develop new ideas on that subject in open Session without helping the enemy, but I am one of those who hold the view that the Royal Air Force bombing of Germany 1553 would be reinforced in its effect several times over if it were accompanied by the right sort of propaganda, and the same thing applies to our victories over the bombers and also to our sinkings of German submarines in the Atlantic. But it has to be virile, and, if you like, it has to be crude. We are dealing with a crude people.
I do not want to refer again to the exploits of Rudolf Hess. Much has been said about him in this House, but I felt, and I still feel, that we rather muffed the propaganda value. I wondered myself why we said anything about Rudolf Hess at all. I felt that if we had said nothing, the Germans would probably have come to the conclusion that Rudolf had fallen into the North Sea, and I have little doubt in my own mind that there would have been a most wonderful funeral service for Rudolf Hess, at which the Feuhrer would have paid most wonderful tributes to his Deputy-Leader and friend. When all this had come to an end, I think that an announcement that the departed Rudolf was in our hands would have had a devastating effect upon the world.
We must, in fairness to the Ministry of Information, admit their technical difficulties. The most potent agency of propaganda to-day is the radio, and Germany controls 10 times as many stations as we do. We cannot hold the Ministry responsible for that. You cannot build a new radio station in five minutes. You must carry the matter further than the Ministry of Information. Had we before this war realised that propaganda was a weapon of war, presumably we would have ringed the world with radio stations, and it is a rather sobering thought that we could have done so at a cost of less than that of one day's war. The point upon which I, personally, need conviction is that the Minister of Information places sufficient reliance upon its propaganda side. Perhaps that decision has to start in the War Cabinet. In other words, the War Cabinet have to lay it down that they will regard propaganda as a potent weapon of war and that they expect that weapon to be waged with as much ruthlessness, vigour and vision as they expect from any other weapon. When that is done, then, I think, it will be fair to judge the results. As far as I am aware, there are only five weapons in our hands with which to beat Germany—the Navy, the Army, the Air Force, the economic 1554 blockade and propaganda. I suggest to the Committee that we are not in the position in which we can afford to ignore any one of them.
§ Mr. Graham White (Birkenhead, East)
I am very glad indeed to be the first Member of this House to have the opportunity of congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans) upon the very admirable speech he has just delivered to us. We find not infrequently that a Member, when congratulating another hon. Member upon his maiden speech, is obliged to make many reservations as to the actual matter of the speech, while at the same time he congratulates him on the method and manner in which it has been delivered. On this occasion I find myself particularly fortunate and happy that I am able not only to congratulate him upon the admirable way in which the speech was delivered, but also because I am in agreement with him. I hope that there will be other occasions before long when my hon. Friend will be able to address this House, and I am sure that it will listen to him with interest and attention.
As the Debate has proceeded to-day, I have found myself regretting that it had not taken place before the changes, such as they were, that the Lord President of the Council announced to the House today had taken place. When those steps were announced, I could not fail to be led to the belief that they were nothing more than a difference of degree and emphasis. I found myself repeating the old tag "plus ca change plus c'est la même chose." There are many people outside this Committee who have been looking forward to this Debate with profound interest, intermingled with anxiety. I had hoped that it would be a Debate which would not only clear the air, but also clear the decks for action by much more decisive and authoritative steps. The Ministry of Information, as at present constituted, is not fitted for the business of propaganda at all, except a static form of propaganda and long-range propaganda.
The film section is the encouraging part of the work of the Ministry of Information. It is encouraging in more ways than one. In the first year of its activities, I do not say that it was a case of misdirected energy but of general futility. The Select Committee on expenditure, 1555 which had occasion to consider the film section, recommended that it should be either mended or ended. The decision was taken that it should be mended rather than ended, and I am glad to say that it is doing work of the very highest quality. That may perhaps be a happy omen for other sections of the work. I regret very much the sense of frustration arising from the work of the Ministry; it is evident not only in the country but also in the Ministry of Information itself. An hon. Member referred to the ponderous nature and unwieldiness of the machine. He is absolutely right. It is an extraordinary affair. I hope that before this Debate ends we may be given some indication of what is to happen within the Ministry itself as a result of the changes which have been announced to us to-day. Clearly changes must follow, because there is prepared in effect a limitation of the scope of the Ministry.
I think that in all probability the failures, administratively and constitutionally, of the Ministry of Information date back to the time, pre-war, when the Ministry was organised on the understanding or in the belief that we should be dealing with a similar form of propaganda and building up a direct counterpart to the type of organisation which is being employed in Germany. There can be no similarity between the machine employed in Germany and the machine employed here. In Germany we are dealing with a completely controlled Press and a limitation upon every organisation and instrument for the expression of opinion. We are not concerned, as is the case in Germany, with hypnotising and withholding the truth from our own people. I sometimes speculate as to what may be the result in the long run when disillusionment comes to the 90,000,000 of people in Germany, from whom the truth has been withheld for a period of six years. There has been no such experiment in deception in the history of the world, and I think that when disillusionment does come it may well be followed by certain popular movements the like of which the world has never seen before.
I am not one of those who seek to criticise the Ministry of Information because it has failed to do what German propaganda has done, nor have I any sympathy with those who suggest that we 1556 are handicapped because we are obliged to adhere to the truth. The success of German propaganda has been exaggerated because they have always had behind them the threat of overwhelming force to the people who were their prospective victims. When all is said and done, our machinery at the Ministry of Information is not adapted for propaganda purposes. Propaganda is a matter of day-to-day and hour-to-hour decision, and not a matter for committees and conferences and all sorts of comings and goings. I had hoped that we should have seen proposals from the Government which showed that they had paid attention to the recent Debate in another place and have seen the Minister of Information coming to this House as master in his own house and not, as it would appear to be, a kind of glorified postmaster. I am at a loss to understand the effect of some of the changes which have been foreshadowed to-day. The Ministry of Information is a great amorphous agglomeration without spine—I think somebody has said that already— and in the absence of evidence to the contrary it is certainly without heart. It is in a continuous process of disintegration and if I were a prophet I would say that as a result of the announcement made to-day that process of disintegration will proceed rapidly. It will bring to the faithful people employed in the Ministry an increased sense of frustration.
Just look at the statistical record of the Ministry. The latest figures show that 1,801 are employed on the staff apart from the censorship staff, and that there are 1,087 who for one reason or another have left the service since it started. That is an indication that all is not well. There has been an absence of definite and authoritative directives laying down the general line of policy at long range and effective control of short range propaganda; indeed, the machine has been floundering and sprawling over the general field of propaganda and the whole line of communications and distribution of news.
I speak in sorrow and not in anger with regard to these matters because I am dismayed that so little alteration is proposed. I would like, if I may, to make one or two observations with regard to the specific points which were mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council. There is, I understand. 1557 to be some form of closer co-operation between the Service Departments and the Ministry of Information. But I understood that there was to be no form of cooperation between the Service Departments in relation to the Ministry. For instance, the Ministry is not to be concerned in co-ordinating the release of news which each Department may see fit to release. There may be the greatest possible confusion. Each Department may release news which has no relation to the situation as a whole. It seems to me that there may be a very serious effect there. Surely the Minister of Information, who is distinguished in his resolution and courage, should insist upon having at least that amount of authority. He should be able to deal as a whole with those things for which he is responsible and not merely individually. I did not gather that there was any proposal that the Press shall be kept informed of the background or situation as a whole so that the information which is given by them shall be related to the situation as a whole and be presented to the public in a way that will not create misgivings, as so much unrelated news does at the present time. The Press is a free agent in this country and must be treated as such, and I would like to associate myself with what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for North Bristol (Mr. Bernays), who paid a tribute to the Press for their efforts under the voluntary censorship.
There is one other matter to which I attach importance, which was mentioned by the Lord President of the Council. I think he used words perhaps a little loosely, with reference to the future arrangements between the British Council and the Minister of Information. He spoke of the British Council as doing certain propaganda work. That is not the case. At the outbreak of war a direction was sent to all our correspondents and representatives overseas warning them that the work of the British Council should be kept entirely free from anything which might be called propaganda. I think that it would be most unfortunate and deplorable if it should go forth from this House that the British Council was in any way associated—I was about to say contaminated—with propaganda. The Council's work is purely cultural, is without bias and is purely objective.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter (Wood Green)
Is not the hon. Gentleman putting rather a false case to the Committee? According to him, the British Council tells the outside world about this country and its cultural life, and above all it is honest in what it sends out. But all articles that go. out from the British Council have one purpose; it is disguised propaganda—and good luck to them.
§ Mr. White
That is the hon. Member's view of the situation, and I suggest that he ought to make a closer study of the work of the British Council. I hope hon. Members will read the authoritative report that was issued last week, from which they will gather quite well what is the work of the British Council. When my right hon. Friend replies, I hope he will make it quite clear that there is no work carried out by the British Council which can be designated as propaganda.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Information (Mr. Harold Nicolson)
I am sure my right hon. Friend will make that clear.
§ Mr. White
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he has said. It clears up the point I was making, and relieves the great anxiety which was in the minds of many hon. Members when they heard the words of the Lord President of the Council. I cannot say that the proposals which we have heard to-day have satisfied me or my hon. Friends. It has been said in the Debate that, whatever may have been the importance of propaganda in the early months of the war, certainly the urgency and importance of it is not getting any less to-day, either abroad or on the Home Front. We must insist that action is taken in these matters. The field for propaganda is getting larger and the need for it more critical. It may be that within six months vast masses of the population of Europe, war weary and suffering from deprivations of one kind or another, may fall into the same state of mind as that of the German people in the years before Hitler came into power. Out of sheer fatigue of spirit and mind, they may say that, for better or worse, they might as well go in with Hitler. There is a danger of that. We must make it clear where we are going, in the war and after the war. It is of the utmost consequence that, from day to day, within the limits prescribed by what is physically possible, we should 1559 lay before the people under the Nazi yoke the knowledge that we have and are building up a system not only of right but of security which is greater and better than anything offered by Nazi-ism or any other system. This may well prove to be a decisive factor in the later stages of the war.
To conclude, I want to say a word or two about propaganda on the home front. The Ministry of Information are at this time largely failing on the home front with regard to the field of production. The sense of urgency in the Department has to be revived, and let me tell hon. Members that the day of slogans has gone. It is no good putting up slogans, "Go to it," "Keep at it," and so on, because there are notices written up underneath, "Where is it?" and "What is it?" [AN HON. MEMBER: "Get away with it."] For instance, there is a complete misapprehension with regard to Income Tax. How do the Ministry propose to deal with a man who says, "Why work overtime when the State is going to take away everything in taxation?" or "Why should I work hard when there is nothing to buy?" What are the Ministry doing, and what directions have they received, with regard to explaining, not by slogans, but by whatever methods may be necessary, the difference between the war effort and normal consumption? These matters are of great and growing importance with regard to production. Great efforts are necessary, and it may be that great efforts are being made to-day, but provided the workers are told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, I believe they are capable of even greater efforts.
§ Wing-Commander James (Wellingborough)
I want briefly to stress the point made by the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. Graham White) with regard to what must have been a slip of the tongue by the Lord President of the Council. Recently I have had a good deal to do with the work of the British Council in a foreign capital, and I feel it is essential that it should be made quite plain that propaganda is no part of their work. The British Council must not be in any way placed under the Ministry of Information. It has an independent non-party governing body. Another reason it should not be under the Ministry of Information is that one sincerely hopes the 1560 Ministry will cease to exist as soon as the war is over, if not before; whereas one hopes that the British Council will continue to carry out its very valuable worldwide work for many years to come. Unless it is made clear in the Debate that the British Council is quite separate from the Ministry of Information, its work will be hampered in a number of capitals where it is now doing purely cultural and educational work. The British Council does not touch propaganda, and in the country in which I am familiar with its workings we stressed that in no circumstances must it do so; it was on that understanding that it was allowed to pursue its welcomed activities. It is most important that the phrase used by the Lord President of the Council should be put in its proper perspective when the Minister of Information replies.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, Southern)
I rise to address the Committee for the first time, and in doing so, I ask for that measure of indulgence which hon. Members so generously afford on these occasions. I do not want to take up a great deal of time, because I know there are many hon. Members who wish to speak. Indeed, I have not prepared a speech which some hon. Members might think was suitable for a first effort; I have come straight from an infantry unit in the field force, with all the various and manifold duties that have there to be performed, and I have had no time for the careful composition of such a speech. I want to speak on only one aspect of propaganda, and I hope I shall not be out of Order, for I understand that the Debate is to be a wide one. I want to speak on propaganda in the Army. It is no reflection on the Director of Public Relations at the War Office, who is doing excellent work in a rather different sphere, to say that the Army is neglecting propaganda—and by that I mean educational publicity—with consequent injury to its fighting efficiency. I mean publicity, not only for the public who support the Army with their high morale, but also for the Army, which in turn supports the morale of the public, by an exhibition of its strength and high standard of training. I wish to make a plea to-day for a far wider use of the normal, everyday processes and methods of publicity, and for its extension right down to the fighting units. I mean by 1561 that, reporting of exercises and operations, the use of still and motion-picture photography, posters, public address equipment, and the like. We ought to have publicity units as part of the establishments of our battalions and regiments to photograph and write about the troops on exercise and in the field.
The Army is behind the other two Services in this respect. I recently went to a newsreel where was shown a composite picture of the work of the three Fighting Services. First of all, we had some views of the Navy, and we saw battleships in line ahead steaming through heavy seas and firing broadsides. That picture evoked a burst of applause from the audience. Then there was a picture of the Royal Air Force, and we saw a formation of bombers escorted by fighters, darting through clouds, with views of the sea and coastline far below. That picture produced an awe-inspired silence. Finally we came to the Army. We saw a company of infantry attacking a pill-box at the end of a village street; but I regret to say that the audience burst out laughing. It was not the fault of the Army; it was a manoeuvre well and efficiently performed, but the angle of photography was wrong. There were all sorts of grotesque and unnecessary scenes, including, for example, citizens putting up their umbrellas, dogs barking at the heels of soldiers, and perambulators scurrying across the street. From the civilian's point of view it was very funny, but it was not very funny from the military point of view. I submit that that sort of thing is very bad propaganda.
What happens after military exercises have been held? The umpires' reports are collated, and that takes several days. They are then passed down through the various formations, which takes several days more, and finally there is a post mortem on the exercise within the unit itself. By that time the normal activities of the unit have continued and all interest has entirely evaporated. There is no time and there are no personnel to prepare a report within the unit, with the result that many valuable lessons are lost, and the same mistakes are repeated time and time again. We ought to have publicity men who are soldiers to photograph that unit on exercise, and the results ought to be made available within 48 hours. We ought to have publicity men, soldiers 1562 again, to co-operate with the umpires and write reports to form the basis of subsequent criticism. In actual operations these men would send reports and films back through the various formations to general headquarters and by air to this country for the edification of the Government and the military authorities, and, after suitable editing, for the information of the public. It is true that training films exist, but I have seen only two since the war began—I hope I am an exception in that. It is true that photographic apparatus exists, although I know of one case where a cinema projector was found lying idle in an ordnance depot. It took all the ingenuity of a resourceful officer to have it extracted. The whole process of getting films and photographs to the troops, and from the troops to the public, is too difficult and too complicated. Front-line units pine for these films to help them in this training. The public long for them to show them what their soldiers are doing. Units should not have to grab at meagre resources; a copious supply should be foisted upon them. The Government are seemingly unaware of the enormous part which the cinema plays in the lives of the younger generation, and soldiers are no exception to that rule. The Government are seemingly unaware of the great hold the cinema has, and of its power to educate and train. The eye is a surer instructor than the ear, and good publicity methods in this direction will bear wholesome fruit.
We have a long way to go before we reach the standard of publicity which has been attained by other fighting services in the world. It is a strange thing that we have allowed so many weapons which we invented in the last war to grow dull and rusty in this war. Propaganda, in particular, needs a proper polish, and I hope the Minister, who should delegate his powers in this as in other branches, rather than concentrate them in himself, will see that the necessary elbow grease is applied in the next few months, even if it is only in this one direction which I have been able to mention to-day.
§ Major Milner (Leeds, South-East)
I am sure the Committee would wish me to say with what pleasure we have listened to the Noble Lord the Member for South Dorset (Viscount Hinchingbrooke). He has shown a degree of self-confidence and 1563 a measure of eloquence which many older Members may well envy. We shall look forward, I am sure, to hearing further contributions from him in the future.
There are a great many phases of the subject which the Committee is discussing to-day, and, in the very short time I intend to occupy, I propose to deal only with what appears to me to be the most important of these phases, and that is the question of propaganda to enemy and enemy-occupied countries. There is one preliminary comment I would make. I do not know the feeling of the Committee, but I am bound to say that I feel very dissatisfied and uninspired by the address given by the Lord President of the Council. He related the various changes that have been made and left with me, and I gather with the great majority of the Committee, a feeling of considerable dissatisfaction. As I understood him, the Service Ministries are to have an officer in the Ministry of Information whose duty it will be to make a decision as to whether news or information relating to that Service Ministry shall be given out by the Ministry of Information or not. That is an extremely invidious position in which to put any officer. He is to stand between the Minister of Information and members of the Cabinet on the one hand and his own Service chief on the other, and he will frequently be put in an extremely difficult position. It would be far better to make him an adviser to the Minister of Information rather than the man who in fact has to take the actual decision. That would leave the final responsibility where it ought to lie, with the Minister.
With regard to the general question of propaganda, I sometimes doubt if the Government, and indeed, all of us in the House, really look upon propaganda, particularly to enemy countries, as being of the real value that I believe it to be. Do they believe in the force and power of propaganda in these days? I doubt it. Propaganda, properly applied and directed, can be the most valuable weapon of all, for we must all admit in our inmost hearts, without being in any way pessimistic, a difficulty in seeing how complete victory can be brought about in present circumstances at a comparatively early date. The blockade has its value, but it cannot be conclusive, although in concentrating 1564 on and continuously attacking the oil resources which are available to Germany there are distinct possibilities. Air bombardment again has its value, no doubt a very considerable value, but we must all agree, having regard to the results in this country, that we cannot very well envisage an end being brought to the war by even wholesale air bombardment. As to invasion of the Continent, how long will it be before we have the necessary numerical superiority to bring that about even if we attain, as we all expect, at an early date, superiority in the air? But propaganda is a game in which we hold most of the cards. So far, however, we have allowed the initiative largely to rest in Hitler's hands. I have visited Germany before and since the last war, and I spent a great many months there as an enforced guest during the last war. I believe there are far more points of attack to which propaganda could be directed in Germany than ever there were against France or any of the occupied countries.
The other day I read a book in which the author points out what I believe to be the profound truth that the fighting spirit in the German people has three fundamental weaknesses, to none of which are we in this country subject. They suffer from a deep pessimism and feeling of defeatism, born out of their history and their literature and so on, which, although it can be temporarily submerged in the blare and bombast of a stimulus, eventually culminates in collapse and defeat, as in 1918. Secondly, the German people are, I believe, unhappy and miserable. An American correspondent the other day spoke of "victorious Germany, the land of gloom." The Germans suffer from consuming discontent, which only has to be stirred up, and above all, to have alternative hopes offered to it, to bring about a complete change in the present attitude of the German people, who, I believe, are anxious to escape from the ring in which they are at present enchained, to have another destiny to which to look forward rather than the one of eternal war to which they seem to be committed. The German people are really disunited at heart and only the unexampled repression carried out by the Gestapo prevents them from having civil war. On the other side, I believe 1565 we have the means to carry out the campaign which I want to press on the Government, and we have the moral power of the world behind us. For these reasons I assert with some confidence that the attack on morale and nerves and imagination and ideas offers the greatest possible prospect for success of any upon which we can enter, and it can be started at once, and not after lengthy and expensive preparation.
Our broadcasting to occupied countries is very good as far as it goes. I am assured that our broadcasts to France are really excellent, but I think our efforts would be far better utilised in broadcasting to Germany itself for all we are worth, because, so long as German armies are in the field to crush the occupied countries the prospect of risings and revolutions in those countries is small. But, if we could prevail upon the German soldiers to revolt, Hitler's day would soon be done. What we have to aim at is a revolution of all the victims, including, and even putting in the first place, the Germans themselves, against the Nazi yolk. What are we doing in this direction?
It seems to me that there is an almost total lack of appreciation, firstly of the necessity for this kind of propaganda, and, secondly, as to the line of policy or the direction in which it should go. Quite clearly, such broadcasts must be sent to the proper address, but it is impossible by listening to the German broadcasts to make out to what particular section of the German people they are addressed. It is no use, at present at any rate, to try to frighten the whole German nation by stories of what we shall do to them. Clearly that only strengthens the Nazis. What we have to do is to address in particular the anti-Nazis and the doubtful supporters of the Nazis, who far outnumber the official Nazis, and if we do that we must be careful not to fog the issue by putting out shortly afterwards another broadcast which cancels out the appeal made to them. For example, a short time ago there was a broadcast to Germany of a speech addressed to the workers by Thomas Mann. Almost immediately thereafter the B.B.C. broadcast a threat of the indiscriminate bombing of German cities. Those two broadcasts cancelled each other out, even if they did not create for us more enemies than friends.
1566 Some time ago, also, General Wavell addressed his troops, including the Free French, reminding them of the common battles they had fought against the common foe between 1914 and 1918. That address, of course, was excellent as a broadcast to the French, but it was also broadcast to the Germans, all those Germans who believe, as some of us in this House believe, that the greatest catastrophe of all was the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. The Germans would at once think that the consequences of an Allfe3 victory might be the same as they were in 1918, and that even a victory by Hitler might perhaps be the lesser evil of the two. Then, when the German troops entered Bulgaria three or four months ago, the B.B.C. broadcast to the German forces, to the men themselves, and what they said was that "the field-grey locusts were now entering another country to loot and starve its population'' That was addressed to the German soldiers, who were termed "field-grey locusts" We drew no distinction between the party bosses, or the Black Guards, and the ordinary German soldier, who is ordered hither and thither at their command, and so not unnaturally the soldiers and their relatives would switch off that broadcast in disgust.
I could give scores of instances of a lack of understanding or lack of nous, but one more must suffice. Within the last week or two very excellent broadcast addresses have been given of the opposition of other countries to the Nazi rulers, but those addresses are entitled "Europe against Germany" not "Europe against Hitler" or "Europe against the Nazis." The effect of them was entirely destroyed by the headlines or titles which they bore. We have to remember that there are 80,000,000 Germans and only 3,000,000 official Nazis, and our job is to divide and not to unite those two sections of the German population. Similarly, we must address ourselves to the Bavarians and to the Austrians, and to the populations of seaport towns, who understand the importance of sea-borne world trade, just as we ourselves have our separate regional broadcasting stations for Wales, Scotland and so on. At present we talk to all of them in the dialect of Berlin. I submit that there has been a real lack of understanding of the psychology of the German people.
1567 Further, no use is made of all the information which is to be obtained from such German newspapers as can be got through neutral countries. In that and in quite a number of other matters there is a complete lack of nous. No German is going to listen in to a mere repetition of routine news which he can get equally well from his own broadcasting stations. Yet we persist in giving him just the ordinary news of the day. For example, we broadcast the death of the Kaiser without a word of commentary. It was a fact which the Germans knew long before we knew it. A great opportunity was lost on that occasion. We should have gone on to say that the Kaiser, like Hitler, had conquered most of Europe in his time and had lost everything.
§ Major Milner
My point is that we did not point the moral and adorn the tale. We should have told them how the Kaiser had conquered but had lost everything, and how history could repeat itself and so on. In that way some useful results might have been achieved by the broadcast. A. mere announcement of the death of the Kaiser achieved nothing. Above all we must hold out an alternative to Hitler's New Order which will attract the mass of unhappy war-weary Germans to our side. I hope that I am not entering on a controversial point, but in my submission we must include an honourable and equal place for the Germans—the ordinary German people, not the Nazis, because I think there is a great difference between them—in a unified Europe. It must mean their freedom as well as ours. It must mean a promised land and real peace and security under our leadership and that of the United States. The choice should be made clear to them—Do they prefer to be free in a free Europe based on Magna Charta or slaves in a Nazi Europe based on the Gestapo?
§ Captain Plugge (Chatham)
I listened with great interest to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council, but I was somewhat disappointed when he referred to the transmission of our news to foreign enemy and occupied countries that no mention was made of any proposals for 1568 the improvement of the means by which we transmit that news. I was reminded of a group of persons in a railway carriage who were discussing whether they should sit back to the engine or face to the engine, when there was no railway on which to run the carriage, no permanent way. Supposing that at the beginning of the war there had been no Royal Air Force, and that we had called upon Imperial Airways to fill the breach by continuing their commercial services with an arrangement by which we should allow a soldier to go aloft, for 15 minutes or half an hour at a time, armed with a machine gun. If such a course had been followed, how should we have been able to face the onslaught of the Luftwaffe? Further, if we had asked Imperial Airways to clear the air by discontinuing 80 per cent, of their commercial routes and suppressing altogether their only overseas long distance non-stop service altogether, where should we have been then?
However ridiculous this suggestion may seem to hon. and right hon. Members, I must point out that such is exactly what has happened to this country in the field of broadcasting. At the beginning of the war we had no war broadcasting machine, no Royal Ether Force, no Fleet Ether Arm; we created none, but we enlisted the assistance of the British Broadcasting Corporation, a commercial concern, which up till then, was internationally self-pledged to the construction and operation of stations designed solely for home use. We requested them to scuttle 10 out of their 12 wavelengths, including their only long wavelength, the only wavelength they possessed which could reach over the greater part of Europe in daylight. We then asked them to grant the war effort 15 minutes talks and half-hour transmissions from time to time to foreign countries, many of which could not receive the transmission except on the most powerful sets, and to some countries that could not receive them at all at the times chosen.
When approaching the subject of broadcasting, I think I ought to make my personal position clear. I was the founder of the International Broadcasting Company. I have at various times utilised the facilities of a considerable number of broadcasting stations in many parts of Europe. In order to remove any misunderstanding. 1569 I would remind the House that these activities have long ceased owing to the war, and I therefore feel fully at liberty to speak freely on the subject. I have often received, like others, the advice—"Do not overstate your case"; with the result that I have found myself understating very considerably, only to find my remarks further discounted, producing an entirely wrong impression. I would like, therefore, to say that I do not propose to-day to understate in any way, but to put plainly and bluntly before the Committee the desperate situation in which we find ourselves in broadcasting. It is 10 months ago since I last spoke on international broadcasting as a weapon of war in the House of Commons, and I pointed out then that Germany operated 104 stations, of which 24 were high-powered, working on 84 wavelengths, of which 37 were clear channels and of which seven are long waves. We were operating only two high-powered stations on five wavelengths, and no long wave at all. I am referring only to the popular waves, medium and long waves, as these are the only two kinds of waves that are receivable on all sets throughout Europe. It is only when transmitting on medium or long-wave channels that one really can truly apply the term of broadcasting. In fact, only such waves are called the "broadcasting bands." Short-wave beam transmissions for Europe are not broadcasting in the accepted sense. The shortwave beams are really a cheap substitute for cables. Messages are received only by a picked few in the country aimed at and given wider publicity only through the newspapers or other long established means as and where and if permitted. In hostile or invaded countries such facilities are denied to our news.
Only if a short-wave beam transmission is locally re-radiated on the broadcasting bands of medium and long wave does it reach the general public and become a real broadcast. This needs no proof. How many people in this country would have heard President Roosevelt's voice had the B.B.C. not rebroadcast the American short-wave transmissions? Although the U.S.A. has had scores of short-wave stations transmitting nearly all through the day and night for years, what would the English public know about America if these short waves were not re-broadcast from time to time and if 1570 all American news were removed from the Press and the B.B.C. News Bulletins? Yet, as regards English news, such has been the position for years in many a country too far away from here for our medium stations to reach, but covered very adequately by German long-wave stations. Only the U.S.A. has been in the favourable position from our point of view of being immune from German broadcasting bands, at the same time being well covered by British medium-wave stations by the efficient Canadian Broadcasting Corporation with its 90 medium-wave stations.
I am sure the Committee will accept my definition of broadcasting in war-time as "a transmission sent out, wave, time and power being such that it can be received on the great majority of the radio sets of the country concerned, with the same ease or thereabouts as the local station, or at least with the same power and ease as the transmissions sent to that same country by the enemy." May I read a cutting from the "Times" of 27th December, two days alter the memorable and timely speech my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister broadcast to the Italian people?There is no public response to Mr. Churchill's broadcast to the Italian people because relatively few people in Italy heard it, apart from foreign diplomatists, journalists, high officials of the Fascist Party and prominent State officials of whose duties wireless listening is an integral part. The proportion of receiving sets in Italy strong enough to pick up London is low.My right hon. Friend, the Prime Minister had spoken to the Italian people through telephone lines which were not connected to the Italian people. He had been completely let down by our technical services. He was like a brilliant writer handicapped by being allowed only to use manuscript when his enemy had the printing press at his disposal. I have often heard it said in this House, in reference to a statement, "Has it been broadcast?" This is as if we were to inquire, "Has it been put to print?" It depends if it is printed in the daily Press or in a local church magazine. It depends if it was broadcast in a manner receivable by all or just by the very few. What a difference it might have made had every Italian listener heard the Prime Minister's speech as clearly as we did. A station at Malta, 1571 such as I advocated many years ago, would have made this possible.
In August, 1940, the Germans were utilising 84 wavelengths, of which seven were long wavelengths. This country was only operating five wavelengths and no long wave whatever. In the intervening period we have re floated one scuttled medium wave, now using six. But during the same period the Germans have increased theirs from 84 to 92 channels or wavelengths, still including seven long waves. These figures do not take the Italian broadcasting system into account; with this the Axis wavelengths now exceed 100.
We possessed only one long wave before the war, and this we scuttled on the first day of the outbreak; we have never refloated it on the air. Yet practically one half of all the mechanical gear and a great deal of the electrical gear in every receiving set in Europe is constructed solely for the reception of long wave. No true English word can be heard on all those sets when switched to their long wave band setting. German transmissions in English and many other languages practically fill the whole of the 180 degrees of the dial. With this band denied to us we have found ourselves in the impossibility of broadcasting daylight transmissions which could cover Europe or that could reach the more distant countries of the Continent, and in particular the Mediterranean. We have knowingly and willingly handed over this part of Europe entirely to German and Italian influence. In the Eastern Mediterranean, and, in fact, in the Mediterranean as a whole with its numerous and important bordering countries, it has been impossible for listeners to receive with any degree of power or ease broadcasts from England. As far as the broadcasting world is concerned in the Mediterranean, Germany and Italy reign supreme. Britain rules the waves, but the Axis rules the ether waves.
To regain this supremacy, I advocated in the House in August last the building at once of stations at Gibraltar, Malta and Cyprus, in an attempt to cover these various parts of the Mediterranean and also, as and when required, to re-broadcast on the broadcasting bands our shortwave beam transmissions. No such stations have been built. What has been 1572 the result? We have left a complete open field to Germany and Italy to broadcast during practically all the 24 hours of the day to countries such as Rumania, Bulgaria, Greece, Jugoslavia, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Algeria and Morocco. Whereas we were prepared to send an Expeditionary Force of our soldiers to Greece in order to help Greece when Germany was at her door, and subsequently to Crete, in the numerous months during which Germany was persuading Rumania and Bulgaria to join on her side and offer no resistance to German occupation by converting each individual listener from our cause to theirs—and this was particularly true in the case of Rumania, at that time our Ally—we did not make any attempt, nor were we in a position to make any useful attempt, to counteract this invasion by radio.
§ Captain Plugge
They were made by me continually since and prior to the war to the Government in this House. This is what the Prime Minister said in his last speech during the Crete Debate:The further question arises as to what would happen if you allowed the enemy to advance and overrun, without cost to himself, the most precious and valuable strategic points." — [OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th June, 1941; col. 147, Vol. 372.]This is precisely what we have allowed the enemy to do in the Balkans by handing him over the virtual monopoly of the ether world over those countries bordering on the north of Greece.
Radio is the advance cavalry of occupation. Nobody will doubt that the Government was right in sending physical aid to Greece and in defending Crete, even against the greatest odds, but where, I submit to the Committee, we failed utterly was by not being in a position to send moral help to those countries through the air in the form of our radio news and news commentary for the 10 months since my last warning, during which Germany was obviously and successfully using the broadcasting medium in order to jockey into position through Hungary, Rumania and Bulgaria, and penetrate, without firing a shot, up to the very door of Greece; or, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister put it, "without cost to himself through the most precious and valuable strategic points," and there being able to 1573 secure the physical advantages of position and start the fight with all the necessary preparation.
The same applies to Jugoslavia. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister mentioned in his statement on the Greek campaign:The former pro-Nazi Government of Jugoslavia only changed at the very last minute and no time was available for the full mobilisation of the Jugoslavian ArmyJugoslavia was therefore not. in a position to put up the resistance which she would otherwise have been able to offer. I submit that our handing over of the broadcasting monoply to the Axis in the Balkans assisted and made possible the birth of the early pro-Nazi Government in Jugoslavia. The various Balkan countries show individual examples of every degree and of every variety and kind of anti-British radio penetration. No one thing can win a war, but the absence of one thing may cause it to be lost.
It is very difficult for me to understand that we do not realise that broadcasting is by far the greatest war weapon of this twentieth century. It is the only brand new weapon in this war. The gun, the tank, the aeroplane, all were used in the last war. In the last war, our naval blockade was much more complete than our present one, for an additional reason than those usually quoted. It cut all submarine cables. Enemy news was blockaded all over the world. Not so in this war. It is our news which is, in fact, blockaded by the overwhelming superiority of Germany in the ether world, the new colonial world through which practically all news is now transmitted. For we must visualise the ether as an immense new colonial world where the wavelengths are the colonies. We are not a colonial Empire in that new world. Germany is. There was no broadcasting in the last war, yet broadcasting, considered alone, as I will show the House, has proved itself by results to be more powerful than the gun and the tank. Where used in conjunction with both these and other weapons, it has revealed itself to be overwhelming and revolutionary. Radio is to this war what the aeroplane was to the last. We have to dissociate ourselves from the narrow conception of war which makes us think of war only in terms of minute mortal men being grounded by great gulping guns or blown up by big, beautiful bombs. The ether world is also 1574 a battle front. Its plains are immense, great new battlefields, where fighting is going on all the time, where we can retreat or attack, take the offensive or remain on the defensive. During the Debate on Crete, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said:Again and again it has been proved that fierce and stubborn resistance [to the enemy] even … in exceptional conditions …is an essential element in victory" — [OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th June, 1941; col. 148, Vol. 372.]I say that "fierce and stubborn resistance" to the enemy should be made in the exceptional conditions of the new battlefield, provided by the vast ether empire, since here no cost of men, money or material is involved, and we can therefore be, if we so desire, mighty and strong, since our struggle is so holy and our cause so great.
If we wanted only one proof of the value of the new battlefront of the ether, we have only to remember that Hitler has decreed the death penalty to listeners to foreign broadcasts. How he must fear that fierce and stubborn resistance, which we are not opposing in that sphere at present. Clause 14 of the German Armistice to France is, I believe, little known. For further proof of Hitler's fear of the radio weapon, perhaps I may quote it in its original text:Clause 14. —Pour toutes les stations d'émis-sions de T.S.F. qui se trouvent en territoire français intervient immédiatement une interdiction d'émettre. La reprise des émissions radiophoniques sur le territoire non occupé fera 1'objet d'un accord séparé.This decrees that all broadcasting stations, even in non-occupied France, shall only transmit under German control. Another example: Just two weeks ago as I understand it, although my right hon. Friend may correct me here, one. of the Clauses of the recent Non-aggression Pact with Turkey provided that the Ankara long-wave station should discontinue forthwith its English broadcasts. Ankara was the last long-wave station in Europe, exclusive of Russia, that still gave free English broadcasts. Hitler certainly understands the golden value of the long-wave band.
§ Sir Henry Morris-Jones (Denbigh)
Would the hon. and gallant Gentleman tell the Committee how, at this moment, a change can be made in broadcasting policy?
§ Captain Plugge
I will deal with that special point in a moment. To comprehend the relative importance of the war in the new battlefield of the ether world, may I survey for a moment the results of the fight on that front, to date? Up till now Germany has conquered or invaded 13 different countries, covering a total area of 950,000 square miles and comprising a population of 175,000,000 inhabitants. Out of that vast area of land and great number of people, only seven countries have been conquered by force of arms. The other six were conquered by political warfare on the broadcasting battlefront. The countries conquered by force of arms include 100,000,000 inhabitants, covering 550,000 square miles. Those conquered without bloodshed amount to 75,000,000 souls, inhabiting 400,000 square miles. Yes, but look how much more satisfactory is the conquest by persuasion than that by force of arms. Whereas conquest by force of arms entails enormous expense in money, fuel, material, production, loss of men, ammunition, risks, and many other things, it also carries in its wake much greater hatred and much less hope of effective co-operation after occupation.
§ Mr. Granville
The hon. and gallant Gentleman knows a good deal about these matters. Will he tell the Committee whether, in his opinion, the Russian radio stations can jam the Nazi radio stations?
§ Captain Plugge
In order to do so, I should have to detain the Committee still further, and I should have to tell hon. Members exactly what jamming is and what ways there are of jamming and of counter-jamming. As I was saying, for lands conquered without bloodshed, hardly any money has been expended, no risks incurred, no ammunition, no loss of war material, no expenditure in loss of life. The country conquered by persuasion does not harbour the same hate and is much more ready to co-operate after invasion than the country which has been conquered by bloodshed and destruction. That may well be why France was not physically occupied in its entirety. In addition, in countries conquered through the new battlefields of the ether, the enemy appears to be much more immune from attack by us, and can apparently prepare, produce, manufacture and organise undisturbed. As 1576 evidence of this, I believe it is true to say that German concentrations in Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria, Denmark, have all been singularly immune from R.A.F. attack. We therefore must conclude that of the 13 countries conquered by Germany during the first year and a half of the war, the six, the conquest of which was facilitated by the unopposed broadcasting sphere we have left to the Axis, fall within the framework of Germany's temporary conquests as much greater victories than the conquests achieved by force of arms.
Why is it that we have not opposed "fierce and stubborn resistance" to the enemy in this field of battle? Why is it that we cannot visualise the value of this new weapon? As far as I can see, it is due to the recognised fact that we dislike and do not try to understand anything new. We treat with suspicion the new thing we do not understand. We treat with suspicion anyone who advocates its use. He often treads on vested interests, or the pioneer work which has permitted him to understand it has caused him to go against established standards. We have suffered from this trait on many occasions in our past history. Clive of India is one of our classic examples. But we do not have to go so far back; our great Prime Minister of to-day advocated, if he did not invent, the use of tanks in the last war, and he was not understood. More recently, on many occasions prior to the war, I have heard him in this House drawing the attention of the Baldwin and Chamberlain Administrations to the growing power of the German air force and the weak position of our own; but his plea was in vain. I could therefore not follow in more illustrious footsteps today in beseeching and entreating, as I do, for an enormous and extensive expansion of our broadcasting system. I advocate at once the putting up of a fierce and stubborn resistance to the enemy in the exceptional conditions of the ether battle-front.
Now let us consider the countries which have been conquered by force of arms. Have they been conquered by force of arms alone? Have they not received also the utmost assistance from radio? Of course they have. On every single occasion, as I pointed out in August last, we have witnessed the surrender of an entire army, within three days of the 1577 occupation and operation by the enemy of the principal broadcasting station of the country concerned. To this effect I drew attention to the surrender of the Dutch Army, unbeknown to its own Government, two days after enemy occupation of the long-wave Hilversum broadcasting station; the surrender of the Belgian Army, also in disagreement with the Belgian Government, three days after the operation by the Germans of the Evere twin medium-wave broadcasting stations. Again, in the case of France, we witnessed the surrender of the French Army; but in this case, which was immensely more grave, the surrender also of the French Government. In this case the seven powerful French long and medium-wave broadcasting stations, Radio Paris, Radio 37, Radio Vitus, He de France, Radio-Cité, Poste Parisien and Radio P.T.T., had been occupied by the enemy. I drew attention to these facts in the House of Commons 10 months ago, when I pleaded for the building of broadcasting stations in Cyprus, Malta and Gibraltar, exposing the danger we were running in the Mediterranean, where our broadcasts from England could not be received on ordinary receivers, at the disposal of the millions of listeners in these parts.
Yet again, during the recent Greek campaign in the Balkans, we have witnessed exactly the same wholesale surrender of armies, without being ordered to do so by their respective Governments. The Jugoslavian Army surrendered a few days after the Zagreb medium-wave broadcasting station was operated by the Germans, and there was the surrender of the Greek Army shortly after the occupation and operation by the Germans of the Salonika medium-wave broadcasting station, again, in both cases, in disagreement with their respective Governments—at least, according to the early reports. Must we not therefore conclude that the local broadcasting station is in more intimate contact with the Army, directly and through the civil population where fighting is taking place, than the Government under whose orders the Army is fighting? An invading army is incomparably more powerful if it is supported by broadcasting stations capable of reaching fully the civil population of the area in which the opposing army is fighting. The assistance reaches its maximum efficiency when a 1578 national station with its familiar announcers can be utilised. By demoralising the civil population, the wholesale surrender of the army can evidently be rapidly secured. Great efficiency and predominance may even secure the surrender of the Government too.
I submit to the Committee that every commander-in-chief planning a campaign should have at his disposal broadcasting units which could be used to prepare the ground previous to attack, and to maintain also by broadcasting the weight of such attack. The idea of portable stations accompanying an advancing army should be at once developed. In the Syrian campaign, loudspeakers were used to address the opposing forces, and the Commander-in-Chief found it necessary to utilise a distant wireless station to broadcast to General Dentz with regard to Damascus. How much more effective, how much more conclusive, would this method have been had our Commander-in-Chief had at his disposal one or two broadcasting units which could have been devoted entirely to this purpose, operating continually in support of his advance. Ample means and equipment to facilitate the use of this medium should be available for every campaign. There is no doubt that when our troops start advancing into enemy occupied territory, the first thing the enemy will do is to destroy the occupied local radio stations. When this happens our Commander-in-Chief should be in a position to broadcast immediately on the destroyed stations' wavelengths, thus producing the effect of having captured the local stations and continuing their functions, unhampered by the enemy's action. May I urge that immediate study of this question should be made by the High Command of all three 'Fighting Forces?
We have therefore witnessed in this war the extraordinary sight, unprecedented in any other war in history, of six countries in all of which the Army surrendered, contrary to Government instructions, within three days of the operation by the enemy of the principal national broadcasting station, except in one case, France, with so powerful and extensive an unde-stroyed broadcasting system that the surrender of the Government itself was also secured. I think that we all realise that our greatest disaster in this war was the surrender of the French Government, independently of the surrender of the 1579 French Army. Had the French Government not surrendered but only the Army, we would still have by our side the French Fleet and the French Colonial Empire, an asset I need not enlarge upon, yet an asset which we now see rising against us instead of merely partially co-operating against us. And all this is again traceable to the free hand in broadcasting which we allowed Germany to acquire, and have allowed Germany to maintain, all over France and her Mediterranean Colonies after France's collapse.
In August last the operating in this country of four medium-wave freedom stations as a minimum was advocated for France alone. Four different programmes, operating 24 hours a day. French German controlled stations number 26. A few quarter-hours on one programme is all the B.B.C. has been able to provide. This is not fierce and stubborn resistance. No wonder that Germany has been able to establish the co-operation she has been seeking and for which we are now suffering. In war the greatest military objective is to demoralise the civil population. Our aim should therefore be to maintain that morale in occupied countries, in neutral countries and allied nations.. Broadcasting is so powerful a weapon because it short-circuits any other method that has been used heretofore to that end.
These facts are more apparent in the case of Syria. Here fighting might have been competely unnecessary. Only 8 per cent, of the population in those parts can read, and a powerful British broadcasting station in the British Colony of Cyprus only 60 miles away, such as was demanded in the House ten months ago, would have maintained our point of view there, and Syria would now be fighting Germans instead of New Zealanders, Australians and Free Frenchmen. It is on this new battlefield that we should have put up our initial "fierce and stubborn resistance" for months. There we are to blame ourselves, and all that I hope is that the Greek campaign and the cost in lives of the Syrian occupation may have at least proved to us that if this country is not prepared to use to the full this newest war weapon, if it is not prepared to fight on this new battle front, a greater number of British soldiers' lives will be lost and the war may be unduly prolonged. Because it must be well under- 1580 stood that broadcasting is really a modern, new form of transport. It is the transport of the mind without the transport of the body. No country can wage war with fullest effect if it disregards and scorns the latest form of transport.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is remodelling our diplomatic service. May I say to him that the old principle of diplomacy by contact with Government through diplomatic representatives is of little value if it has to compete with an enemy that supplements this recognised method with the more modern one of being able to influence the mind of every single individual in the country concerned by a broadcasting system in close conjunction. A statesman is not like a person in an airtight compartment. His decisions are influenced by the masses. That is what occurred in France when the numerous powerful French broadcasting stations were crying all day —"Reynaud has betrayed you. He is going to run away. Get Reynaud and hang him. Get Reynaud and hang him." It is hard to realise the stirring effect on population and statesmen alike of a broadcast of that nature from your own stations, spoken by your own announcer's familiar voice. The present position is that we do not possess 10 per cent. of the facilities we should have as a minimum, and the facilities we have we do not use to more than 50 per cent. capacity.
I am sure that hon. and right hon. Members would like to know why it is that we have so much reduced our wavelength power with an enemy never ceasing to increase his. For I must inform hon. Members that in medium waves alone this country is only one half as powerful as it was before the war, while Germany has increased her medium wavelength power, which was already 500 per cent, greater than ours, by a further 300 per cent., both by conquest and new constructions at Calais and elsewhere, and is now 1,500 per cent. more powerful. I consider that it cannot be explained, nor in my opinion can it be justified, although I am able, I believe, to recite the events that led up to it. At the beginning of the war we were rightly anxious about what might happen with reference to air raids over this country. Radio stations can, under given circumstances, render navigational aid to aircraft, and I believe it was the opinion 1581 of the Air Ministry that broadcasting should cease altogether. This was, however, found too drastic. The B.B.C. agreed to whittling down their network to one programme on two waves. This drastic curtailment of the service may have been justified at the beginning of the war, but now it can be plainly seen that the Germans do not need any aid to navigation for their aircraft from us. Anybody can listen to the identification signals which are sent out every five minutes on all German and occupied stations, which give by back bearing to any German aircraft at every moment of her flight and during the whole night, her exact position over this country. Results are quite obvious from the raids on such towns as Coventry, Birmingham, etc., where enemy aircraft have had apparently no difficulty in finding their exact position. Even so there are now several alternative methods of rendering radio immune to giving navigational aid—the latest being polarisation. I could discourse at length on these methods and their respective merits but do not wish to weary the Committee. It is easy, however, to understand that when a request such as the one in question came from the Air Ministry, no reason need again arise for the Air Ministry, who had obtained satisfaction, to suggest that previous conditions should be reinstated.
In the meantime daylight raids have practically ceased, and daytime is a most valuable broadcasting period when, moreover, except in fog, alternative aids to aerial navigation are not required. On the other hand the B.B.C, having secured permission to reduce their service, has no special interest in requesting to re-instate or expand their network which would only cost more money without bringing in more revenue. We therefore find ourselves in the terrible dilemma of having no man, no body, no Government Department, no Ministry, which has so far desired to request the reinstatement of even the pre-war wavelength strength —let alone any expansion of our broadcasting system—or even insisting on the relaxing during the long daylight hours of the shackling effect of synchronisation. By abandoning synchronisation in daylight we could bring into being at once about 12 additional broadcasting wavelengths including one long wave. We could forthwith triple during the long 1582 daylight hours our channel strength on the broadcasting bands.
Ideal conditions required by certain services have to be counterbalanced by the value they may have in other directions, and this applies to the drastic action demanded by the Air Ministry at the beginning of the war, and which I submit to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Information should, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has pointed out in other cases, be reviewed from time to time in the light of existing and varying conditions. I would therefore ask the Minister if this drastic action has been so reviewed, and if so, when and before what scientific body did it take place? To speed up victory it is imperative that we should at once re conquer the lost ether world of Europe and of the Near East. This can only be achieved, in my submission, as I stated the last time I spoke on the subject, by adopting at once the recommendation made as far back as 1932 by the Ullswater Committee on Broadcasting, on which my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal then sat.
The recommendation was that there should be a Ministry of Broadcasting in this House. Just as a Ministry of Aircraft Production was found necessary to produce the planes for the Air Ministry, so is a Ministry of Broadcasting required to evolve the necessary network of stations, wavelengths, channels and gear at home, in the Colonies, in occupied lands and protectorates, and in the various theatres of war so as to provide the Ministry of Information, the fighting Forces and also our diplomatic representatives abroad with the necessary tools to accomplish their work. Just as the Air Ministry want the machines because they know how to fly them, so does the Ministry of Information require the proper broadcasting facilities in order to be able to operate them before ready audiences in all parts of the world. The work of this Ministry would include the building and operating of broadcasting stations in Gibraltar, Malta and Cyprus, in Palestine, in the occupied countries of Syria and Iraq. It also would conceive the construction of broadcasting stations in Jamaica, in Nassau, in Honduras, for South America, also at Singapore, Hong Kong and 1583 Shanghai, in order to cover those parts of the world. It also could include a reciprocal arrangement with the United States. For instance, one broadcasting station on medium wave in England that would re-broadcast American beam transmissions of all the important occurrences in America all day long. This would enable all people in England to follow the point of view of America, and it also would, if proper and suitable stations were built, enable the whole of the occupied territories of Europe to hear American views, which would be so valuable to keep up their morale. Both the National Broadcasting Company and the Columbia Broadcasting System are great public-spirited bodies. I feel sure that my friends, Mr. David Zarnoff and Mr. Bill Puley, would take on at the expense of their own respective companies the erection and operation of such a medium-wave station in this country.
This could be a reciprocal arrangement, and the United States could provide us over there with a medium-wave station which would retransmit the important events and speeches from this side of the Atlantic. At present only the most important events, such as the speech of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, ever reach the whole of North America on medium wave from inside the United States itself. It is interesting to note that in New York there is one station that broadcasts all the time in Italian and one that broadcasts all the time in German. There could therefore be no objection to a medium station rebroadcasting also the transmissions of the British Broadcasting Corporation. Such reciprocal arrangements could also be made with Russia at present. The Ministry of Broadcasting could send a Radio Mission both to America and to Russia to arrange for these reciprocities. Delayed re broadcasting could permit censoring if such were desired by either side.
These are vital radio alliances which could be arranged very quickly and at very small cost, and bring the peoples of the countries which are fighting on the same side in much closer contact than through diplomatic representatives. Here we have a link and contact between the people themselves; the peoples of each country are in reality visiting one another 1584 through this new system of transport. The listening public have been spoiled. They no longer like reports of events; they want a ring seat themselves; not only do they wish to hear the actual speaker's voice, but also the applause and the reactions of those present at the ceremony. The duties of a Ministry of Broadcasting would also include providing the three Services with portable broadcasting stations and assist in their operation. The Ministry of Broadcasting could co-ordinate all such constructions and operations. We may need all this at very short notice, and unless the transmitters are ready and the channel operating, we will not be in a position to transport our thoughts to the scenes of conflict. We must also visualise the effect that broadcasting will have at the Peace Conference. Whatever peace we will secure by force of arms, it will be increasingly valuable and more conclusive if we can back it by a powerful broadcasting system which will permit all the peoples of the world to know our views and to know why we are acting in the way we do, thereby securing good will everywhere. The good will of all nations is a thing which is invaluable; it cannot be purchased either for money or blood. But it can be acquired by speech backed by a righteous cause. We have the cause, grant us the longest arm that science can bestow on our speech: broadcasting.
A Ministry of Broadcasting should also watch the development of the latest system of radio transmission for two-way communication which is called "frequency modulation." This system is used by the Germans in their communications between dive bombers and tanks, because it does not suffer from any outside interference. I understand we are not using that new method of transmission, while the Germans have perfected it to the full. The Ministry could also see about the construction of the numerous freedom stations which I advocated in my last speech— four for France, and two for each of the following—Norway, Holland, Belgium, Greece, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Jugoslavia, Poland, Denmark, and now Bulgaria and Rumania. We also have Spain to consider. It would not have been necessary if we had had a station associated with Spain for my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) to be lodging protests regarding 1585 damage to the British Embassy in Madrid. No damage of that kind could ever have taken place if we had acquired the full good will of every individual inhabitant of Spain, and eliminated the possibility of that country being hostile to us. With regard to Russia, we must prevent at all costs a repetition of what occurred in France, in the prevention of which broadcasting can play an important role. What I want to impress upon the Committee is that there is still time, if we act quickly and deliberately in the broadcasting field, to stop co-operation between France and Germany. Syria is not the only French colony to be considered; there are also Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia. Apart from these in the Mediterranean, there are still countries like Iran and Turkey who need moral help by the most powerful means. It is imperative that all those countries should receive our news. I do not wish to put it higher—but they must receive our news as easily and clearly and powerfully as the Germans send their news to them. That is, I feel, our duty.
The cost of broadcasting is negligible, but more important than cost is the fact that this method of warfare saves so many lives, so many British lives, so many British soldiers' lives. To allow an Army like our own to fight as it did in Norway, in Greece, in Iraq, or as it is now doing in Syria without the support of a powerful broadcasting organisation is asking all those soldiers to fight with one hand tied behind their back. Leaflets were dropped over Baghdad, and also in Syria. In these parts only 8 per cent. of the population can read—all can speak. Think how valuable a Royal Ether Force would be to our Army there, or a Fleet Ether Arm that could have steamed up the Persian Gulf, broadcasting continuously to the whole Iraqian people, and the whole Syrian population. Broadcasting is the lubricating oil of the machinery of war. A powerful broadcasting system would oil our own machine and throw sand in the war machine of the enemy. At present we are witnessing the Germans oiling to the full their own war machine, obtaining success after success, and blasting sand into ours. A machine can run with little or no oil, it can even run in a sandstorm, but it runs better, faster, with less wear. with less fuel, more smoothly more regularly, and with less breakdowns if oil 1586 is used plentifully and if it is protected from sand.
When I am told, "But broadcasting does not stop tanks," I reply: imagine a man fighting in a tunnel, not knowing that light exists, receiving blows from nowhere. He lashes out the best he can in the dark. Someone suggests that he should use a beam of light, and he replies, "But light does not stop blows." Such is our position to-day. We are not using the luminous word, the word that travels through space at the speed of light. People sometimes say that German broadcasting has only shown its weight when backed by force. That remark might certainly suit the case of Rumania or Hungary, countries which are surrounded by German armed forces. But one cannot say it applies in the case of Iraq or of Syria. There—in Iraq the British influence has been prevalent for years, and Syria a year ago was fighting on our side. We had a good start. Neither of these countries, Iraq or Syria, was bordering on Germany, and in that part of the world we had at all times a greater display of strength on land, in the air and on the sea. The fact that in these two countries anti-British changes have been so great that fighting has become the order of the days, shows, since only one influence remained, that broadcasting penetrates even when not backed by force of arms and with all other conditions against it.
Do hon. Members realise the enormous additional value to the German war effort which is given by the all-night transmissions of the German broadcasting stations? Every day at midnight our broadcasting ceases. The Germans go on for three or four hours, giving very good music, classical, semi-classical, dance and operatic music. Many, many thousands in this country listen to it, and the whole of Europe is entertained every night by it. Why allow Germany to maintain that fillip? It simply means that we are permitting the Germans to blow hot and cold. They bomb women and children, and at the same time they sing beautiful music, incorporating love and kindness. I have with my own eyes seen people in England, waiting in a shelter, hearing the bombs fall, and listening to the German transmissions and saying, "Well, whatever one levels against the Germans, they are beautiful musicians. They do play beau- 1587 tiful things" Yet the whole scheme is just the consumption of electric current, because only records are being played. Why cannot we do this ourselves as well? I cannot see any reason why we should not also have a British transmission going on all through the night. These German transmissions are heard all over Europe, and they have a certain soothing effect on the population. It does not seem to me to be a good policy to surrender to Germany the right of softly entertaining the whole of Europe every single night, while they are waging this terrible war. To us it is only a question of electric current because we have overseas transmission going on all through the night on short wave, and it simply means keeping one of our medium transmitters in operation; and medium waves carry over very much greater distances further into the night when the ether is clear with few stations on the air. All the people of Europe who want to listen in at that particular time have no choice; they are compelled to hear the German transmissions. Surely we ought not to allow anybody in Europe to be in the position of being compelled to listen to German transmissions because of total absence of British alternatives. The value of broadcasting does not only reside in talks. Music also, so long as it is clear from which country the musical entertainment comes, is a great assistance to a country's cause in the minds of the masses.
Our weakness in broadcasting channels does not only affect us in the Mediterranean and in our international transmissions. In the Mother Country it exposes us also to great danger in case of attempted invasion. In reply to a recent Question asked by the hon. Baronet, my Friend the Member for Ealing (Sir F. Sanderson) on the subject of interference with the Forces Programme, the Minister of Information replied,The interference originates from Italy, and little can be done in the matterWell, if it is true that our stations are so weak and our channels so vulnerable that interference from a thousand miles away can jam them in their very own territory, our situation is desperate. I say that the proximity of German-controlled stations and the enemy's overwhelming superiority in wave-length means that Germany can at a minute's notice, for 1588 instance on the eve of an attempted invasion, cut off, except for a few restricted areas, the whole of the British Broadcasting system in England as it exists and is operated to-day, securing for themselves the sole monopoly of broadcasting over this country and maintaining it, maybe for weeks, for the broadcasting of news, instructions and directions to our civil population. It does not need much imagination to see what confusion such a state of affairs would cause. The remedy I advocate is the construction of baby stations, full particulars of which I gave to the House in my last speech on the subject 10 months ago. In view of this impending danger, may I ask again with great urgency: will the Government take the required steps to consider this or alternative safeguards?
Concluding and summarising my remarks, I would say that broadcasting is the only new weapon, and the most powerful weapon of this modern war. It opens a new battlefield, a battlefield in which resistance, "fierce and stubborn resistance," to the will of the enemy can be maintained if we so desire. It has acquired for Germany more valuable temporary conquests than those acquired by force of arms—yet in the conquest by the latter, broadcasting has also greatly contributed. German broadcasting in the Middle East has done us more harm and is still doing us more harm than even the possession of her present territorial gains in those parts. Broadcasting as a new war weapon has the following advantages: (1) It needs no great expenditure in money. The motive power of one heavy tank is greater than that of many a broadcasting station. (2) It needs no great masses of men. Thirty men could run one of the proposed Mediterranean medium-wave stations for rebroadcasting. (3) It does not use any weight of material. The weight of one heavy tank is greater than the weight of material of many a broadcasting station. (4) As an aid to advancing armies it may save, and indeed has saved, many thousands of soldiers' lives by assisting in earlier surrender of the enemy. (5) It does not involve the risk of life. (6) It is the most democratic way of waging war, because it is designed to convert people to our cause without inflicting bodily harm on them.
There has been a great deal of controversy in regard to what should, and what 1589 should not, be broadcast. It is no use discussing what we should say or what we should not say, and how and who should say it, when we have not got the channels through which to say it. The sooner we have a complete reconstruction will those broadcasting stations be built, and these channels be acquired and operated, and the sooner will we travel the road to victory. It has been customary recently to finish with a quotation. On such a new subject as this one a quotation is difficult to find. May I summarise the present position with a verse of my own:Never was there a weapon so meek,As the beat of an ether wave,That brought so much power to a cause so weak.Sapping strength from so many so brave
§ Mr. G. Strauss (Lambeth, North)
I do not intend to pursue the subject which has been so exhaustively dealt with by the hon. and gallant Member who has just sat down. I want to add one or two words of criticism of the speech made by the Lord President of the Council and to make one or two comments upon the work of our propaganda, but before I do so may I say quite frankly that I believe a great deal of the work of the Ministry of Information to be excellent? I frequently pity the Minister because all the work he does, without exception, is done in public. Most of the work of other Departments is done in private, but every time any person in this country turns on the wireless to listen to the news or to hear a talk, or picks up a paper and finds something to complain about, he has the Minister of Information as an Aunt Sally. I frequently pity him because he is so exposed to criticism. I think the people of this country to-day are quite unanimous on two points: One is that we must beat Hitler, and the other is that the Ministry of Information is making a mess of things.
We all know that the statement given to us to-day at the beginning of the Debate was the result of long secret battles which took place behind the scenes. Those battles were apparently very arduous, and very strong feeling was shown on all sides. I think one must agree that the result has been that thing which we have all been taught recently to look upon with the greatest suspicion—a compromise peace. In my view that compromise peace will only be the prelude for 1590 a further outbreak of hostilities later. In view of the shortness of time, I do not want to go over the many points already effectively made by previous speakers. In regard to the proposal which has been put before the Committee to-day, I wish to say a word about one aspect of it which appears to me to be disastrous. That is the increased authority and responsibility of the Foreign Office in foreign propaganda. I know that the Minister was rather vague on that subject, but I gathered quite clearly that in future the Foreign Office will have a greater responsibility in this matter. I maintain that the Foreign Office, with its traditions, its peculiar type of personnel, its traditional outlook and its recent record, is the last body that should be in charge of this service. I have a great respect for the Civil Service in all Departments, but I should have thought that there was general agreement that those members of it working in the Foreign Office are, by the very nature of their training, apt to be old-fashioned and rigid in outlook, least conscious of modern social trends, and least aware of the outlook of the common people and of the labour movements in all parts of the world. I should have thought, moreover, that there would also have been general agreement that our propaganda, to be effective, must be aimed at the masses of the people and not at the diplomatists, the aristocracies, or the upper middle classes of the people of Europe. It must be based on an appeal to the masses of the population of Europe, and the people who are going to direct that propaganda should have an understanding of the aspirations of the ordinary man, because what we want to see if our propaganda is to be effective is eventually an upsurge of the masses of the people, not only to regain their own liberties from Hitler's tyranny but to achieve social security, a higher standard of living and those aspirations which ordinary people in all parts of the world have to-day. The Foreign Office are the last people to be in charge of such propaganda.
In the statement which has been made by the Government to-day I do not believe that the fundamental difficulty of the Ministry of Information has really 1591 been affected. Its present status, authority, and terms of reference are ridiculously vague. Of course, there must be consultations with the Service Departments in all matters affecting Service duties, but to-day any Department of Government—not only the Service Departments, but the Ministry of Health, the Colonial Office, the Department of Home Security—can, if they want to, refuse to co-operate on any particular point, and neither the Department nor the Minister has any power to interfere if that takes place. I do not believe that the present compromise position can last very long. I believe there must be a change very soon, and, as far as I am concerned, the sooner the better.
\There are one or two specific points I would like to put forward about our propaganda to foreign countries. I think it would be a pity if, in this Debate, we concentrated too much on the machinery and organisation of the Ministry of Information and neglected its work. With regard to our home propaganda, I express the personal opinion that I would very much like to see a more virile and more vigorous type of talk given to us over the wireless. Everywhere I went I heard appreciative expressions of the broadcast, for instance, of Mr. Quentin Reynolds. It is my impression, and that, I think, of a large number of people, that too many of our talks are in manner, style and matter addressed to the sophisticated people of this country, and not enough to the ordinary man who goes to the "pub," and to the working class housewife in her cottage. I would like to see a change of direction in that respect. With all respect to the right hon. Gentleman, if I may give an example of the type of broadcast which is wasted time, I would select that very erudite broadcast on Joan of Arc which he gave himself, interesting as it was doubtless to quite a number of people.
In regard to the foreign broadcasts, my impression is that some of them, particularly those to France, Germany and Norway to-day, are very often, for the most part, technically brilliant, but there is a very serious defect in all our foreign propaganda; that is, it lacks consistency and has no sense of direction. Our propaganda very frequently contradicts itself because no general rule is 1592 followed. I have not time to give many examples, and I will give only one, which I think is a striking one. On one day, in B.B.C. broadcasts in French to the French there were three broadcasts, one of which spoke of Pétain in very friendly terms indeed, while one was neutral, and one definitely hostile. That type of contradictory propaganda can only have the effect of confusing the listeners, and it can never inspire. In passing, I might say that it is a remarkable thing, according to my information, that in our broadcasts to Italy there is hardly ever, if ever, reference to the fact that this is a fight against Fascism. There is a lot of criticism of Mussolini, but there is really need for criticism of Fascism. In Italy there must plainly be millions of people who loathe the burdens and sacrifices which Fascism has imposed upon them. Why do we not appeal to that hatred among the Italian people? For some reason—I do not know what it is—we apparently refrain from doing so. Incidentally the B.B.C. seem very 10th to use the services of Italian Liberals and Socialists in this country in broadcasts to the Italian people
One word about Russia. I hope that our broadcasts about Russia are not going to follow the lines of the instruction to the B.B.C. in that matter, which I think is ridiculous. This instruction stated that when references were made to that new Ally of ours, fighting with us against the German aggressor, no objection was to be taken to reasonable criticisms and expressions of dislike for the behaviour of the Soviet Union up to the date on which they declared war, so long as those expressions were not very insulting. Really, that is quite ridiculous. I suggest that the Ministry of Information should take immediate steps to see that such instructions are immediately cancelled. A word about Germany. We know that anybody in Germany who listens to our news and broadcasts is liable to severe punishment. Consequently very few people dare to do so. It is therefore essential that we should make our news and propaganda as attractive as possible. I think there is quite a serious criticism to be made about our news service—the information we give out, not only to Germany, but to France—that is, that the news services 1593 are frequently translations, sometimes almost literal translations, of the news service to this country. Obviously it should be selected, edited and re-drafted, in order to suit the mentality of the country to which we are broadcasting.
I think that our broadcasts have suffered from the difficulty that they are not: positive enough. We tell the Germans, quite rightly, that the German forces are bound to lose this war. But we do not tell them of the benefits which will come to them as a result of the cessation of hostilities, for which they are all longing. We do not speak to them of things still cherished in their hearts— freedom of speech and assembly, the right and freedom to establish trade unions; we do not tell them that we and the Allies are fighting the Nazis in order to establish right and freedom for them and all the peoples of Europe. Finally, in regard to Germany, I do hope—and this is very controversial, I know—that we shall not carry on with propaganda, or repeat speeches which say that all Germans are evil and that they have got to be punished at the end of the war. Goebbels is making enormous use of that sort of speech. He is saying, "Many of you may be opposed to our regime; you may be democrats, socialists, pacifists, but it is plain that if we are beaten, you are all to be punished. The British say so, their wireless says so. It is in your interest to sink your party differences and join with us in supporting the war effort with all your might." I suggest that putting over that sort of story to the German people is considerably helping Dr. Goebbels and is damaging our cause.
To sum up, our foreign propaganda is good, technically excellent very often, but it appeals far more to the propertied classes than to the mass of the people. I am afraid this tendency will get worse when control of propaganda gets more into the hands of the Foreign Office. It is to the peasants, the workers, the millions, that we have to appeal, not to the few, if we want to see any result from our propaganda. I believe it is frequently inconsistent, far too negative, far too much on the defensive, and not positive enough. I want to make a special plea about the type of news that goes to 1594 the United States and the news which foreign correspondents in this country are allowed to send out to the people of the United States. I do not think that we are doing half enough to point out to the people of America the seriousness of our position, which alone will move them to quicker and more drastic support of our common cause. I want to quote a few sentences of a remarkable article which appeared in a Sunday newspaper, from Mr. Brailsford, now in America He said:The Gallup poll of May 16 showed 79 per cent. of the people opposed to entry in the war …I believe public opinion would acquiesce in convoying and eventually any form of naval and aerial actionLater, he says:To sum up: the American masses are not even yet awake to the gravity of the outlook. The almost total absence of news about the Battle of the Atlantic allows them to forget it. I voice the opinion of all our best friends, official and unofficial, in pleading for more frankness. It is imperative to publish the figures of Atlantic losses with a vivid commentary designed to touch the average man's imagination.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)
I hope that in future the lion. Member will support me in the very unpopular attitude I adopt against the Prime Minister, that we should have public Debates on these matters and not discuss them in Secret Session.
§ Mr. G. Strauss
Generally, I do support the noble Lord in that matter; but it is possible to have a private Debate on the subject and yet give out essential facts. Mr. Brailsford went on to say:Above all, the time has come to tell the Americans plainly we cannot achieve victory without something beyond their material aid, however generous it may be.Therefore, I ask the Prime Minister, if he ignores all the other suggestions I have made, to bear that one in mind. I ask him to get the views of the American representatives in this country, and to tell the American people, as frequently as possible, and with as much detail as possible, the seriousness of the position, particularly in regard to the Battle of the Atlantic. We should send over pictures, human stories, and all the rest of it, so that as many of the ordinary people of America as possible—not the Government, who know all about it, but the 1595 ordinary people, and particularly the people in the engineering works and shipyards—may know what the position is, and may understand that we need a 100 per cent. war effort on their part if democracy is to be saved from the heel of Nazi tyranny.
§ Captain Sir Ian Fraser (Lonsdale)
I had the honour a few weeks ago of being reappointed to the Board of the B.B.C. Perhaps the Committee would not feel it out of place in a Debate on propaganda to include some reference to the past work of the B.B.C, partly in praise of it and partly in criticism, by one who served in it for two years before the war and who has now rejoined it. May I preface those remarks by an observation upon the statement which was made to-day by the Lord President of the Council? I do not want to enter into any argument as to whether the War Cabinet proposal will or will not work. I can see the necessity for the Service Ministers having a say, unless you can find and appoint a supreme Minister with almost the power and prestige of the Prime Minister himself to override the Service Ministers. The probability is that we have not got a Minister at this time who could command so much confidence that he could override the Service Ministers. In those circumstances, I am not disposed to cavil at the precise arrangements which my right hon. Friend put before us. But he will forgive me if I say how tragic it is that he should come down here, and, in a precise and almost monotonous lecture, tell us of the arrangement, with no spirit in him, with no heart in him, with no message from the War Cabinet to the newspapers and to the people that propaganda matters.
The view of the B.B.C, and of all organs of propaganda—although I have no right to speak for them, I believe I am echoing what they feel—is that right at the top, in the War Cabinet itself, there is not sufficient regard for this fourth or fifth arm. The object of waging war is to alter the mind of the enemy. You can do that by body blows. We are preparing to do that. But you can do it also by affecting his mind directly. I have come here, not to speak formally for the B.B.C, but rather to speak as a Member of the House of Commons, with some knowledge of the B.B.C, to say what I 1596 know of the delays and difficulties that the B.B.C. has had to meet during the last 18 months in trying to increase the technical means at its disposal for tackling the enemy's mind, for influencing him, through his mind, in order that we may win the war. Many criticisms are levelled against the B.B.C. That is inevitable, because it is a monopoly and the biggest single news agency in the land.
May I examine some of the items of the news bulletins? The B.B.C. appreciates the interest taken in it in the House of Commons, and the constant criticisms that are made. Although those criticisms are directed against the B.B.C, they have been misdirected; in fact, they have aided the B.B.C. to get what it wants. May I say also how much we appreciate the criticisms of radio correspondents, who constitute a thousand eyes and ears to let us know what public criticism is? The criticism levelled against the news is sometimes on the lines that it is dull. There are two or three reasons for that. Sometimes, it is that the war is dull, or that people think it is. Cleopatra reserved whips of steel and boiling oil for people who brought her bad tidings. People now are disposed to take the same view about bad tidings—not so much to be disheartened as to dislike the messenger. Another reason for dullness is the inevitable one that the B.B.C. has no editorial function. The B.B.C, quite rightly, cannot comment on the affairs of the day, criticise the Government, and so on. It should not be given that editorial power. But that is one of the reasons for the dullness. When you open your paper, you find that, if there is no news, the editor has taken great care to give you some controversy and so the paper is not dull. The B.B.C. cannot do that, and you must not call the B.B.C. dull if there is no news.
Let me explain the method of preparing the news bulletins. The news comes in on the tape machine, as in any other news room, by day and by night. Men shape it up into a news bulletin. Ninety per cent. of it is already censored; 60 per cent. of it is inspired. That means that it is either the impeccable prose of a soldier, sailor or airman, or the inspired view in writing of a civil servant. The moment it is inspired, it becomes almost 1597 sacrosanct. It is assumed that civil servants, soldiers, sailors and airmen not only know what they want to say, but know best how to say it. That is frequently untrue. They are not open, as they should be in my judgment, to guidance from experts in the presentation of news, and especially in the presentation of oral news. There is a difference in the kind of writing that is suitable for visual reading and that which is necessary for oral presentation in the news bulletin. You cannot expect civil servants and Service men to know that. The news has to go backwards and forwards. Three-quarters of a minute may be the time taken for an announcer to read a piece of news, but it has probably travelled to five Ministries for approval and consideration, and has then gone to the Ministry of Information for approval on policy. Then it goes out on the air. The marvel is that such an accurate, prompt and interesting news bulletin is produced every night. Great praise should be given to the newsmen of the B.B.C., who work in very difficult conditions, and always against the clock, and the criticism should be directed to other quarters.
May I venture to make a constructive suggestion? There ought to be, somewhere in the offices of the commanders in the field and of the men who make up the news bulletins, representatives of the Ministry of Information or of the B.B.C. to guide and help, and their advice—it could only be advice—ought to be sought by the commanders or by their staff officers who make up the bulletins. May I illustrate what might happen, in the Middle East? A communiquéwill come in from the General Headquarters, and along with it will come two or three messages from Reuters, the Press Association and others. The ordinary newspaper is subject to censorship, but the news editor may put together the Government communiqué or part of it and the messages from Reuters, the Press Association and others, and make an intelligible paragraph for his readers. Not so the B.B.C. news editor. He must produce the official bulletinéand I think that that is rightébut he may not produce any agency message relating to the matter, without reference to the Service Department concerned. So to and fro goes the conversation, ringing up the Air Ministry and the War Office.
1598 The War Office leave a senior officer in charge up to the last minute, but no senior officer in Whitehall is going to tell the news-editor at the B.B.C. that he may or may not release a Reuters message if the communiqué of the commanding officer does not mention what is mentioned in the message. The War Office man plays for "safety first.'' He says,''No, if it is not contained in the message you must not mention it." Consequently, the news is withheld. I am not blaming the officer at the War Office or the commander on the spot, but a great many commanders do not realise what use the Press and the B.B.C. can be to them and they do not make full use of them. A better liaison is required between the man who has to write the communique—the soldier, sailor or airman—and the Press and the B.B.C, than there is to-day.
I pass to other phases of this question. Time is short and I know that I have to give way to the hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench opposite. I have not time to describe to the Committee the way in which the B.B.C. covers the world, but I would like to make this observation. Our power to talk to the world matches up very well with, and may even be in excess of, that of our enemies, and when the facilities which are available in the States are added, as friends, and much more so as Allies, the English-spoken word, with its message, may well cover the world adequately. Unhappily, we cannot say that of Europe. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chatham (Captain Plugge) spoke the truth when he indicated that we were outdone, and there is very good reason for it. When the Germans conquer a country they take possession of a ready-made broadcasting system. They take it over and not only pour propaganda into the ignorant ears of the conquered day and night, but use the ready-made broadcasting system for their own purposes. Moreover, we are affected by other considerations, as, for example, the fact that our audience is not around us. We lie on the edge of a Continent, and although we can do something to reflect our signals, we must lose some part of them in the western seas. It is not likely that we can achieve parity on the ether. While I welcome the speech of my hon. Friend in support of broadcasting, I think that perhaps he 1599 went too far when he suggested that a half-dozen countries in Europe had been conquered by broadcasting. I cannot but think that it was the power behind the word which caused the word to be so effective. But do not let me detract from his plea for a better conception of broadcasting. That is what is wanting, and that is what is lacking in broadcasting propaganda in the speech of my right hon. Friend.
I have one other suggestion to make. I would point out to the Committee that broadcasting is not only the function of the B.B.C. There are fields in which the B.B.C. does not operate. The Foreign Office, the Dominions Office and the Colonial Office come into it, and there ought to be some wider general authority than the B.B.C. alone. The Minister of Information himself might take it under his wing or give it to his Parliamentary Secretary as a special charge to consider world broadcasting, and to serve it from a world point of view, and as a means of hitting the enemy from various angles. I cannot labour this point for obvious reasons, apart from the question of time, but something in the way of a general staff plan is required to use the broadcasting weapon in conjunction with the other weapons, and that has not yet been attempted.
My last word is one of appreciation of the officers of the B.B.C. They are much criticised, as I have said. It is not their practice to answer back, but having known them before this war, and knowing them again now, I am bound to say that from the Director-General at the top, down to the clerks and the engineers in their humble stations, a very fine service has been rendered in this war by members of that Corporation. I only wish that the Government had given them more support and that the various Departments had not so lightly regarded broadcasting and so stood in the way of much of the progress that might have been made. There has been a waste of weeks in arguing where new stations should be built and whether there would be lines there when they were built; there has been waste of time over building, and reluctance to give priorities on the part of the Ministry of Works, all due simply to lack of appreciation of the importance 1600 of this arm in our armoury. This service has not been properly presented to the world or to the House of Commons as a Council of State, which it has really become in this war. Under the present Prime Minister more than under any other I have served the House of Commons has been called into consultation. It has become a committee of the nation. There is criticism, properly and rightly, but there is also a unanimous spirit here, a coming-together of people of all interests, and from all representative quarters, to show the unity of the people and to demand action from the Government. The House of Commons is essentially united as a Council of State but it has not shown a proper appreciation of this question. Broadcasting cannot record speeches of Members at great length. That would be impossible. You would lose your audience if you went on too long, but broadcasting can do more to show to the people and to the world how important is this central citadel of democracy—this House of Commons— and could do much thereby to induce helpful unity and victory.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker (Derby)
I venture to hope, with great respect, that the Lord President of the Council will report on this Debate to the Cabinet. There has rarely been such unanimity in all quarters of the Committee as has been shown to-day, in favour of the view that the statement made by the Lord President of the Council was not what the Committee or the country had hoped to hear. He announced some small improvements—one I think of considerable value—but he said nothing which touched the real problem about which the Committee, in every part, is now concerned—the problem of divided responsibility for the work of our propaganda, the prestige and authority of the Ministry of Information and the status and power of its Parliamentary head. I have had to deal with this question ever since the days of Lord Macmillan's Advisory Committee of 1939 and divided responsibility, with the consequent timorous indecision of confused and ill-directed subordinate officials, which has been the bugbear from the very start. Wherever the Ministry has had a proper chance it has done a reasonably satisfactory job. Has there ever been another war in which the censorship of the Press has not caused both journalists and the public to 1601 blaspheme? Yet the censorship has not been news now for many months. As regards the Ministry of Information Film Division I hope the Minister will be able to give us statistics about the films which have been made, the audiences, the numbers sent abroad and so on.
I have taken some trouble to find out from responsible people in this country, including members of my own party, something about regional and local committees. Of course, there have been troubles in some places, but, on the whole, it is my conviction that they have done extremely well. The most general complaint, I find, is that the Minister has an inferiority complex about them and does not allow them to develop and build up a Home Front League, as was the case, I think, at Southampton. He does not encourage and drive them to have more meetings and do more propaganda of other kinds. In my experience of these meetings they have been extremely effective and I hope the Minister will look again at the plans made by the three political parties at the beginning of the war, trust more to the judgment of the regional and local leaders of opinion and give them power arid authority to do the big job that awaits them.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I also want to trust Members of Parliament. I know there has been a lot of trouble about meetings, but I think it has died away, and if Members would make a practice of attending the meetings which are arranged, they would find that in the majority of cases it is extremely well worth while doing so. Recently the curse of divided responsibility has been worse and the Press has been demanding that the power in this important matter should be in the Minister's hands. The Lord President of the Council announced a new plan to day, and, speaking in the light of the discussions I have had from the beginning with responsible people, I think they go far towards doing what is needed. I hope the Service Departments will try, with good will, to make it work and that the Minister on his side will do the same. It is in respect of propaganda abroad and of broadcasting propaganda, which was dealt with by the last speaker in an admirable speech, that I think the business 1602 of divided responsibility is worst. The Government propose no change except the appointment of Mr. Bruce Lockhart. Apart from the fact—and I say it with all personal respect—that he may not be quite the right man at the present juncture, it is by no means clear that that appointment will not make confusion worse confounded. There must be agreement and the right direction from the Foreign Office, but the Minister, who should agree on policy with the Foreign Secretary, should be able to apply it.
This divided policy, which is to continue, is more to be regretted because propaganda to France, Belgium, Italy, Germany and elsewhere ought to constitute nine-tenths of the Minister's real work. It is there that he can shorten the war—and may I remind him that if he shortens it by one day, it will save £10,000,000? I do not think the Minister will disagree when I say that of all the means he has of reaching the people inside Europe, broadcasting is by far the best. In spite of the speech to which we have just listened, and with much of which I was in agreement, I think that it is in respect to our foreign broadcasts, especially in Europe, that the Government's most serious failures have occurred. There have been failures of almost every kind, but, above all, there has been the failure of the people in charge to grasp the possibilities open to them. That is harsh language, but I hope to show it is true, and I start with the question of accommodation of office space and studios at the operational centres. It has been plain since 1936 that if we were to have war we should need foreign broadcasting services on a major scale. There was ample time to build extra accommodation. It was an elementary precaution but it was not begun. When war began and foreign broadcast services started, staff were put into Broadcasting House. By May of last year conditions in Broadcasting House had become intolerable. The whole efficiency of the work was being reduced and I urged the Minister, in the House, to take over the whole thing and start again. He replied that it was difficult to change the position of troops in the middle of a battle, which was a good answer for a few weeks.
During last summer and autumn the services were increased and congestion grew worse. In November Broadcasting 1603 House was bombed and the services were moved to alternative accommodation which had been prepared but which proved to be incomparably worse than Broadcasting House itself. The slum conditions in which the services worked became the scandal of London. Even now I think of the place as "the black hole of Tooting Bec" It is not at Tooting Bec but that is near enough for Field Marshal Goering. When I raised the matter in September the Parliamentary Secretary agreed that the conditions were almost intolerable and later said that my criticisms were fair and justified. But in spite of everything the House of Commons could do, it was not till the end of March that any move was made and even the present accommodation, as the Minister has admitted, is grossly inadequate for these services. There is still a room, not large, in which 40 people have to try to work and I was told that one man who went there to telephone came out gasping for breath. There are far too many people for the cubic space available and there is no present hope of any change, expansion, or relief.
I would like the Committee to know two things. It was after 14 months of war, at the height of the attacks on London that, the foreign services were moved to what I call Tooting Bec. They were there five months, under almost continuous bombing. In the last Debate the Minister revealed that at that place they were not safe from bombing attack. As he has revealed that fact, I will tell the Committee some more in the hope that I can make it impossible that the place shall ever be used again. There was no building in London which gave less protection. Bombs fell all round. We knew that the services were a major target for Field-Marshal Goering. Two direct hits by big bombs, or one land mine, would have killed scores, if not hundreds, of these people, and would have wiped out our foreign services for months. The same lack of proper accommodation led to other even more serious results. It is very bad for the health of the staff. One key man has just resigned because he could not stand the strain. The conditions adversely affect output. I do not believe anybody doing that kind of work in such con- 1604 ditions could give more than 50 per cent. of what he ought to do. Above all, the development of the services, a development which the Government want and have asked for, is restricted, prevented and slowed up because the accommodation is not there. Why have these conditions obtained? Why did the move take so long to make? I am assured that it is because the people in charge did not feel that buildings could be requisitioned, that before the move they had to wait their turn, after many other people, for priorities in materials and labour. With an absolutely vital service like this, I think it is lamentable that such explanations should be made, and the people who make them show, by their own confessions, that they understand nothing of the urgency and importance of their job.
That lack of understanding extends to other aspects of their work, and it has affected other sections of the Government besides themselves. They have allowed the most vital of these services to be grossly understaffed. Of everything they do, there is perhaps nothing so important as the news sent to Germany. It is a much more difficult job to prepare that news than it is to prepare the news for us at home. It ought not to be done, as it is done now, from a common matrix of British news. There are more minutes per day of German news than there are of home news, but the editorial staff for home news numbers 18, and the editorial staff for German news numbers five. The same is true of features. The B.B.C. used to have a feature half an hour a week for which they kept eight whole-time officers, apart from secretaries. The German section tries to run features for 50 minutes a day with nine people, including the typists. In the Italian features section, there are three people. The Italian talks section is very weak. The Finnish section, which is now extremely important, consists of three people in all. We have to compare that with a figure which I believe to be true—that when Dr. Goebbels wanted to sell the "New Order" to the United States, he started with an office of 1,200 people. He thinks it matters.
I know it is very difficult to get expert personnel. It is not made easier by the fact that the Treasury do not like to pay 1605 the salaries necessary to get them. It is not helped by the fact that the Army will not exempt people for this vital work. I know of one man whom the B.B.C. found after great difficulty, an expert in a special group of languages, who could not be replaced. He was graded C.3, but the Army kept him. It took the B.B.C. six months to get an indispensable Italian from the Pioneer Corps. That same myopic vision afflicts the people in charge, whoever they are, in the conduct of their work. I could give a hundred examples; I will give only two. It was known about six days before we evacuated Greece that we would do so. We had six days in which we knew that every Greek would listen and in which we could tell them that we were not going to abandon them, that we were going to win the war, that we were deeply grateful for the magnificent contribution they had made to our ultimate victory, that when the war was over we would reconstruct a greater and a happier Greece. Did we send that vital message? It was decided to cancel all talks because it was so difficult to know what to say. My second example is even worse. I do not suppose there has ever been a more important single item transmitted to Germany than the speech by the Prime Minister about Russia the other day, an immensely important political event. No special arrangements of any kind were made for that transmission. The translators and the announcers were given so poor a chance that, by common agreement, the thing came out as an almost unintelligible mess.
Perhaps the Minister will reply that I have painted a one-sided picture, and that because it is one-sided it is unjust, and therefore, wrong. Perhaps he will say that a great deal of our foreign broadcasting is very good and that in some countries, as in France, it has helped to produce big results; that all over the world people listen to the news from London because they know it is true; that whereas a year ago all the correspondence was abusive, now a great many people write to say how good the thing has become. I know that is all true, and if I do not say it, it is only because I have said it so often before. But I hope the Minister will not think that kind of thing constitutes a good answer to what I have said. My case is not that the able and devoted people in 1606 these foreign services have not done good work. Of course, they have. My case is that they could have done much more if they had been given the facilities, the equipment and the support which the importance of their work deserves.
I have made a vigorous attack on somebody. I do not know who it is. Under the present system, it may be, for all I know, the Minister; it may be the Governors of the B.B.C; it may be the officers who work for the B.B.C. But it must be somebody's job to make plans about these things, to get those plans passed by the Treasury, to see that the personnel is found, to supervise and direct the daily conduct of the work. I say that, whoever they are, those people have failed. They have played with the lives and health of their subordinates. They have never understood, and never will understand, their job. They have not the energy and capacity or the imagination required, and as long as they are there we shall never really use this weapon of ideas. Whatever has been the Minister's real or formal responsibility in the past, it is now his job to see that these men go, and I hope he will take over the whole thing himself and run it on a new basis under his own direct control.
§ Mr. Crowder (Finchley)
Will the hon. Member say what wavelengths are used for these foreign broadcasts, in view of what was said by the hon. and gallant Member for Chatham (Captain Plugge)?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Some of them are on the Regional wavelengths. My point is that, whatever wavelengths are used, they are not used as well as they could be. That has been due—and I feel sure that in all parts of the Committee hon. Members are convinced that it has been due— to divided responsibility, because the business of broadcasting is ostensibly run by the B.B.C, with the Ministry having parallel departments intervening in various obscure ways, while the Foreign Office has to be consulted on every detail and point. The same defect of organisation—it is more than that—the same radical defect of conception has affected the policy of our broadcasting, and I fully agree with the hon. Member for North Bristol (Mr. Bernays) that we are faced with two problems, one of organisation 1607 and the other of policy, and that both are of the first importance.
I believe that the three main mistakes in our broadcasts have been too much appeasement, too little democracy, and no clear, constructive message of hope and reconstruction, no living picture, for the other peoples of the new and better world which, in all parts of the Committee, we are resolved to make when the war is over. A friend of mine with a long record- of distinguished service in the British Diplomatic Service told me the other day that he had never known or heard of any case where appeasement has worked. No one defends it now. I hope and believe that the Foreign Office have completely abandoned it. But in our propaganda far too much of it has remained. Then there is that lamentable instruction, to which my hon. Friend referred, but which has now, I think, been withdrawn, although not very long ago, that Mussolini might be attacked, but not the Fascist regime.
There has been bur appeasement of Marshal Pétain. We have imposed a line in our French broadcasts which good judges, in whose views I have great confidence, believe has been a powerful factor in building up the legend—and it is only a legend—that the Marshal wanted and was able to prevent Admiral Darlan collaborating with the Nazis. I have letters from France strongly supporting that view. The legend has been built up in part by us and has been a powerful factor in enabling Darlan to do what he has been doing in Syria to-day. There have been our Hungarian broadcasts, and I think it would repay the Minister to investigate that section. I hope he will note what was said on our behalf when Admiral Horthy's Government stabbed Jugoslavia in the back. There have been our very strange proceedings over Spain. I will give two examples out of many— this has been published in the "Evening Standard" There is an eminent Spanish composer, Senor Torner, who was asked to play on our Spanish broadcast. Since he was known to have had Republican sympathies in the late war, he was asked whether he would mind using another name. Of course, he refused, but his music, which is well known in Spain, was broadcast all the same, not under his own 1608 name, but in the name of O'Connor. The fact is that Torner's music is frequently broadcast from Madrid under his own name, and that at a memorial service for some of Franco's fallen leaders his music was played and his name was printed on the order of the service.
The same spirit has been shown in other ways. Not long ago a speaker stated that during the civil war the Basques had betrayed their Christianity, had thrown themselves into the arms of Moscow, and had fought against the cause in which all true Christians believed. I am not suggesting that in Spain, or in any other country with which we are at peace, we should attack the Government of that country or intervene in their national affairs, but it is childish to believe that by such senseless and self-humiliating extravagances we can really influence men like General Franco and Senor Suner. Such manoeuvres can only make them think that the British Empire is at death's door, while it must demoralise and discourage those who believe in the principles for which we stand. There is not enough of our democracy in our foreign broadcasts. Field-Marshal Smuts said our principles are our reinforcements, on which our final victory will depend, and that is why it is vitally important that we should explain what our democracy means to us in the conduct of the war, both in this country and in the Dominions overseas.
I take the case of France. I think the propaganda of Goebbels, Laval and Pétain against the Third Republic has been far too easily accepted. There was corruption in the Parliamentary life of France, but Laval and Bonnet and Chautemps— the men of Vichy—were the men who were most corrupt. It was not the Parliamentary Government, but the General Staff, Gamelin, Weygand, Vuiellemin and Pétain himself who were responsible for the defeat of France. Their terrible mistakes cry aloud to history, and, of course, they are trying to throw their responsibility on to the Parliamentary leaders. I believe that we have not helped by not appealing to the democratic principles in which the French believe, and by not explaining more how Marshal Pétain plotted against the Constitution long before 1939, and how he tricked the majority of the popular leaders who 1609 wanted to go on with the war and resist the Nazis. We have made an absolutely fatal mistake, which I hope the Minister will put right—I am sure the Foreign Secretary will agree to his doing so—by not making known, by every means in our power, the magnificent declaration General De Gaulle has made, namely, his adherence to the Republican Constitution and his determination to hand France over to the constitutional authorities when the war is over. We have to appeal to France, not only in respect of their anti-German sentiments and to their friendship, but also to the people who believe in the revolution, of ''Liberty, Equality and Fraternity," which not even Goebbels or Darlan have dared to chisel from the walls of the public buildings.
The most serious mistake, which has been touched upon by hon. Members in all parts of the Committee, is that so far we have not given a message of hope and reconstruction to the masses of the people to whom we speak. A Belgian, who is not a politician but an officer, who arrived here from Brussels the other day, stated that everyone in Belgium was saying two things. First, they were saying that the Nazi regime was intolerable and must be ended, and, second, that they would not go back to the conditions that obtained before the war. In France, Poland and Italy is the same. Everywhere people want a picture of the kind of world we are going to make. Nowhere is that more true than in Germany today, especially since Hitler made his onslaught on Russia. I believe that much of our propaganda to Germany is absolutely sterile, because it carries no constructive hope of any kind. Until we have such a message to give them, we may do more harm than good. The subject of Germany is too controversial for me to deal with at length to-day, but 1 hope that we may have another Debate in the near future, and I believe I shall then be able to show that on the basis of speeches already made by members of the Government, and speeches by President Roosevelt which the Government have endorsed, we could send a message to the Germans, a constructive message, telling them what will happen if they help us destroy the Nazis, on which 95 per cent. of hon. Members in this Committee will be in agreement.
1610 The Government have gone very much further than is sometimes realised. The abolition of war, collective resistance to aggression, doing away with the curse of competitive armaments, ending the economic chaos of the past and bringing economic security and social justice to all nations—those are the things about which the people of the world care, not frontiers, colonies, prestige and power. Why do we not give this message, based on the speeches of the Government, to the people to whom we speak? Why do we waste our time on futilities? Why do we not seriously explain our Commonwealth democracy and the immeasurable power it gives us? Why do we obscure our purposes by petty achievements? The answer is always the same. It is not the Minister of information and the Foreign Secretary who are to blame, but the obsolete system of divided responsibility. But for that such questions as the Tooting Bec accommodation, the lack of staff and the lack of direction would have been cleared up. You would have made the Minister clear them up.
Mr. De la Bère (Evesham)
Is not the whole trouble due to the fact that there is no one man with power to see the whole thing through?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
If the hon. Member had done me the honour of listening to my speech he would have heard me say that once every five minutes. But for that, we should now have been giving a clear, bold, challenging message to the world of incalculable power. That, and not what the Lord President talked about to-day, is the issue that the Government have to decide. Small successes over censorship, films and regional committees will not help us, and the compromises announced by the Lord President hardly help at all. The fact that it was the President himself who announced the changes is symptomatic of what is wrong. The Government ought to make a real Ministry of Information, with real authority and real power, and close the doors of the unhappy institution that we have to-day. Why do they not do it? Some people say it is because the Prime Minister does not really care about propaganda. He wants deeds, not words. I ask, Can such an incredible paradox really be true? The Prime Minister has not with his hands destroyed a single Nazi, built a single aeroplane or a tank. 1611 but his speeches after Dunkirk and ever since have been worth many divisions, battleships and squadrons to our cause. They made the divisions and the battleships and the aircraft that we need. They created the idea by which our resistance was inspired. They effected the willpower by which our victory will be won. We need a Ministry to perform that task all day and every day in every quarter of the globe. Let the Government make it, and make it now.
§ The Minister of Information (Mr. Duff Cooper)
The Debate that has taken place has shown that Members of the House are deeply interested in the question of propaganda, and I am sure those who are engaged in the task, whether at the Ministry of Information or in the B.B.C. or elsewhere, will be encouraged by it. They will take the criticism, such as it has been, in good part. It has been helpful, suggestive and constructive. I have nothing of which to complain. If I have not exactly been presented with bouquets, I have at least been handed a few wreaths. If I have not had the praise, I have been almost overwhelmed with pity. In a very interesting maiden speech the hon. Member of Hornsey (Mr. Gammans) said that propaganda could be divided into three parts. I thought he made a sound division: propaganda at home, in neutral countries and in enemy countries. I will deal with them in that order, though I think it is the reverse order of importance.
There has been very little criticism of our activity on the home front. The various themes of propaganda can have one principle in common. Before we start to preach we must be quite sure what the gospel is that we wish to put over. We can spend a great deal of time and argument upon that, but in the long run we can reduce it to two main messages—one that our cause is right, and the other that we are bound to win. If we can persuade the world of that, we shall find that most of the other topics that have been referred to will be simplified and will come under one or other of those heads. Obviously one is more important in one scene of action and the other more important in another. Here at home we have little need for proving either that our cause is right—nobody doubts it—or that 1612 we shall eventually win. Therefore on the home front our activity should be rather to make sure that the spirit of the people remains constant and confident in the tribulations and trials through which they will necessarily pass. This we can best do by presenting them with the news in the right fashion.
The late Lord Haig once said that no news was ever so good or so bad as it sounded when we first heard it. There is a great deal of truth in that view, and I take it to be one of the duties of the Ministry to try to steer public opinion through the Scylla and Charybdis of complacency on the one hand and panic on the other. I am often told that we ought to leave the morale of the people to look after itself, which is rather like telling the doctor who asks after your health to mind his own business. I take it that the right principle is to present the news in the right perspective. We know our people can take bad news. We know they will rejoice at the good. But there is no reason why they should be unduly elated when good news comes, and therefore suffer subsequently from disappointment, nor is there any reason, when bad news comes, why they should not be reminded of the whole perspective in order to judge it at its proper value. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman who spoke last is satisfied with the activities which the Ministry is carrying on in the various regions. The vast number of meetings that have been held of recent months has been almost universally successful. Hardly any complaints are made. But accidents are bound to happen. All who are accustomed to polities and have any experience will remember how in the old days we found ourselves at meetings which were badly attended, and how the wrong people were asked on the platform and more people were offended than pleased. When activities have been on a far larger scale, faults of that kind are inevitable, but I do not think they are increasing. On the contrary, I am satisfied that they are diminishing, and the work of the Ministry in the regions, both in this way and in others, is receiving increasing encouragement and approbation from all quarters.
With regard to propaganda in neutral countries, there again it must depend to some extent upon the countries concerned which of the two principles to lay the 1613 greater weight upon, whether the right-ness of the cause or the confidence in victory. In a great and powerful country like the United States, the lightness of the cause is the most important thing of all to stress. You are dealing there with a country which has been subject for 20 years to assiduous and successful German propaganda, and at the beginning of the war you had an amount of resistance to meet which could hardly be exaggerated. We are often told that, with my resources, I cannot hope to equal the great effect produced by Dr. Goebbels. We have heard to-day what terrible restrictions we suffer compared with the freedom which he enjoys. With regard to the freedom which he enjoys, he may have— I do not know whether he has—complete control as to publishing news items, but he certainly does not—whether it is with or against the will of the Service Departments in Berlin—publish nearly as much information about the war as we do. With regard to the great effects which he has produced, the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) has told us that when Goebbels set out to convince America of the advantages of the New Order he started with a staff of 1,200 people. But has he succeeded? What has been the result of that propaganda? Every month, every week, every day in the last 12 months German shares have fallen in America and British have gone up. I do not take the whole credit of that, I would not dream of doing so, for British propaganda, but I would say that before we hasten to imitate the propaganda of Goebbels we should judge to some extent its results. We have one great advantage. It is like two advertising firms competing with one another. We have a good article to sell and he has a bad one.
In Mein Kampf Hitler pays great compliments to our propaganda work in the last war, and in the Committee to-day favourable comparisons have been made between what we did in the last war and what we are doing in this, but having looked into the matter, I can assure hon. Members that the criticism pf our propaganda was just as strong in this country then as it is to-day. I think Hitler was led away in his admiration of it by ignorance of the fact, or by inability to appreciate the fact, that our cause was the right 1614 cause and that therefore it was very much easier to persuade neutral countries to accept it than it was for the Germans to persuade them to support the cause of Germany in 1914. We have in recent months increased enormously the amount of work we are doing in the United States. The accusation has been made that we have been too reluctant in the past to give news and publicity to the United States. It was, of course, the policy of this country during the first eight months, at least, of the war to avoid all propaganda in the United States. Whether that was a wise policy, I am uncertain. I myself did not take that view. Having no employment at the time, and having sought, as many of us did unsuccessfully, to obtain it, I fulfilled a contract which had been made some 12 months earlier to go a lecture tour in the United States in the winter of 1939–40.
On my arrival in New York certain gentlemen were good enough to arrange a small dinner party for me, at which I met a dozen persons extremely distinguished in all walks of life in the United States. With one accord at the end of that dinner they said the best thing I could do would be to pack my bags and go home. However, I did not do so. I delivered more than 60 set lectures in every part of the United States, and made a great many short talks at parties, and in no place did I meet with the slightest difficulty. Everywhere I had a favourable reception, and everyone said to me after my address, "We call that propaganda." I took the compliment for what it was worth. For my own part, my only object had been simply to tell the American people what our cause was, what our resources were, and what the prospects were for the future. I knew that that was what they wanted to know. Whenever I was asked what part propaganda should play, I always said that it was no business of mine, and that I should consider it impertinent in any foreigner to suggest to the people of the United States the line they should take. But I am certain that if at that time there had been many more people engaged on the same task, it would have proved far easier to accomplish, because we were dealing with a situation which no one realises in this country, a situation created by 20 years of German propaganda.
§ Viscountess Astor
The late Lord Lothian was Ambassador in America, and it was his policy that was followed. Everyone who knows anything knows that we should never have got the Lease and Lend Bill through without his help. As long as he was there surely he was a better judge than even the Minister of Propaganda of what was best for America. For goodness sake, do not say that you knew better than he did at that time.
§ Mr. Cooper
It was not my intention to criticise the late Ambassador or anybody else in any way. I was merely telling my experiences for what they were worth, and I can assure the Noble Lady that Lord Lothian's view was changing, changing perhaps with events. When he was last in England he was in close cooperation with me, and he did everything to impress upon me the importance of some of the things to which I have referred. We discussed the matter on two or three evenings, and there was no difference between us. There was no better propagandist than he was himself. Since then I have been continually increasing the publicity, the news, that gets to the United States from this country. One of the greatest difficulties to be met has been the steady flow from the Germans of stories, pictures above all, illustrated papers and so on, with which we have insufficiently competed. We have recently appointed a new officer, a Director of News and Publicity in the United States, Sir Gerald Campbell, an Englishman, and one of the most highly popular men throughout the length and breadth of that land. He is now on his way to this country to talk over the plans for the future, and I can assure the House that he will have all the assistance that can possibly be put at his disposal.
I think it was the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for South East Leeds (Major Milner) who suggested that we should put the trade union movement in touch with the people of the United States. We are fully alive to the importance of that side of propaganda and publicity. Asthehon. and gallant Gentleman is probably aware, Sir Walter Citrine has recently returned from a long tour of the United States. It was a great success, and plans are under immediate and urgent consideration for 1616 doing something bigger on the same scale. The more people there are travelling to and fro between the United States and this country who can report back upon the position in the two countries, the better it will be. The hon. Gentleman suggested that we should bring home to the people of the United States the seriousness of the situation. There is always a danger in exaggerating. We must remember that there are two schools of thought fighting against us in the United States. At the one end of the scale is Mr. Lindbergh, who says, "It is no good helping Great Britain, because she is defeated already,'' and at the other end of the scale are those who say that it is unnecessary to convoy our ships because the Battle of the Atlantic is practically won. It may be said that it is difficult to find the right solution between those two alternatives. It is not. The truth is the right answer. If we tell them the actual truth, it is that the position is still very serious, but that it is slowly improving. That, surely, is the right message to send them, and we ought to impress upon them that the more rapidly any assistance which they can give us is given, the greater its value will be and the shorter will be the duration of the war.
With regard to enemy countries, we have had great arguments in this House and elsewhere as to what is the message we should send to the German people, and there are extreme differences of opinion. There is an obvious danger that if you tell the German people, the majority of whom in the opinion of the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds are not Nazis, that all will be well for them after the war, there is very great danger that they will say to themselves. "That is good news indeed. Then surely we can continue fighting. If we win, which is all that we desire"—because even Germans who are not Nazis want to win the war— "all will be well, and if we are defeated, then according to the British broadcast all will be better still, so what have we to worry about in the best of all possible worlds?" I should be strongly opposed to frightening them, but what I would say to them is, "We are going to win this war as we won the last war. It is to your advantage that this war should end as soon as possible. How much better off the people of Germany would have been if they had made peace in 1916 instead of 1617 1918; the economic distress which arose would have arisen in a far less violent and painful condition." We should say the same to them now, and tell them that it is the duty of every patriotic German to use his activities to bring the war to the speediest possible end.
What are the weapons at our disposal for carrying on our propaganda? The chief of these weapons is the great, new, powerful weapon of broadcasting, which, as has been said, did not exist in the last war. The importance of it can hardly be exaggerated, except perhaps by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chatham (Captain Plugge). I think that he does exaggerate it a little when he maintains that certain countries were conquered as a result of broadcasting alone. There were other influences at work, I can assure him. There is another side to political warfare which we must not forget, because in peace-time we have always scorned to make use of it, and shall do so in any future peaceful world. That is the weapon of undermining a foreign population, not only by propaganda, but by bribes and subornation; by bribing or buying newspapers, editors and politicians; and by persuading sometimes innocent but foolish citizens that their own system of government is so bad that it would be good and patriotic to attempt to overturn it, and that they would be doing their country's work by serving the cause of the enemy. That has been going on in all countries, even in this country, as we know, for many years. We have never undertaken that kind of political warfare. It is that kind of warfare, surely, rather than the broadcasting efforts of the Deutschlandsender which produced the results which were produced in Bulgaria and Rumania. If we are to take it, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chatham seemed to take it, that all the countries that fell down flat without fighting were conquered by broadcasting, may we not claim the other side of the picture and say that those countries which did fight boldly and against great odds, almost hopelessly putting on their armour rather than sell their souls, such as Greece, Jugoslavia, Belgium, Holland and even so small a country as Luxemburg, may have been influenced by the good propaganda from this country?
§ Captain Plugge
The countries to which my right hon. Friend has referred can 1618 receive our medium-wave transmissions, whereas Bulgaria and Rumania cannot. That is my whole point.
§ Mr. Cooper
That does not cover Serbia and Greece. I believe that our broadcasts are widely listened to in both those countries and were being listened to at the time they made their heroic sacrifice. My hon. and gallant Friend knows more than I do about the technical side of broadcasting. He attributes the greater part of our difficulties to the fact that we will not operate on long wave. I can assure him that there are security reasons laid down by the Ministry which the expert technical engineers do not question. There is sometimes a difference between the Ministry of Information and the Service Departments, but here at least there is no difference, and it is agreed by all the experts at my disposal that to make use of long-wave transmissions would be to endanger the security of this country. If my hon. and gallant Friend can produce evidence, or experts whose evidence will carry great weight, with the recommendations necessary to persuade me of the opposite, I am always ready to look into the argument and have the matter reconsidered. I have asked him to do that more than once, and he has not yet been able to produce the necessary evidence.
There have been many criticisms to-day of the B.B.C., on many grounds. Perhaps the most general criticism and the most important has been on the ground of the German broadcasts. It is impossible to prove the success or the high quality of those broadcasts. There is nothing more difficult than the task set by those who are engaged on them. It is hard enough for the most expert actor-manager, with years of experience behind him to know when he puts on a play whether it will be a success or a failure and whether it will run for a year or for a week. Here we are performing a play to an invisible audience which we can neither see nor hear. Night after night, day after day, the curtain goes up. We know the audience is there listening, some of them listening in terror of their lives, listening with one ear to what is coming to them from England and with the other to the enemy who may be spying at their gates. The only criticism we get is from those who are behind the scenes—useful criticism very often—from those who think 1619 they can do it better. Suggestions are made and changes are made, and only faint indications ever reach us of what is really the effect produced on the invisible audience.
Those indications, such as they are, are satisfactory. We find that the enemy, so far from relaxing their persecution of those who listen to English broadcasts, are increasing it. The prosecutions become more numerous and the sentences more savage. We were all delighted to read in the Press how at Vichy crowds gather outside the house of the American Ambassador when the B.B.C. is performing. Crowds gather there to listen and hear for once the true news. One hon. Member said that we must select our audience, but the great trouble of the B.B.C. is that it cannot select its audience. You cannot choose to whom you are talking. Everybody listens at the same time. You can have a Service programme if you like, but you cannot be sure that the men in the Services are going to listen. That again is one of the difficulties. There are certain people who said that we should appeal to this class in Germany and to that, and that we should do the same in France, as my hon. Friend the Member for Derby put it with great eloquence. But we have friends in both those countries in all parties, from the extreme Left to the extreme Right, and the policy we attempt to pursue is to speak not to any party but to all the people. It is not an easy thing to do in a country like France, where political divisions are far more bitter than they are in this country. That, however, is the policy which we are attempting to carry out—to appeal not to one party, not to one section of the population, but to the whole people. There again, the message that we have to send is to remind them of the justice of our cause and to persuade them of the imminence of our victory. I cannot agree with my hon. Friend that it would be a good thing for any Government Department to take over the complete control of the B.B.C. I do not think it would be a popular thing in this country.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I referred to the foreign work of the B.B.C, which is quite different from the ordinary peace-time work of the Corporation, for the figment of an independent Corporation no longer deceives anybody.
§ Mr. Cooper
To a large extent, the foreign work of the B.B.C. is under the direction and control of the Ministry of Information. The B.B.C. engage on it their own staff, but the staff accept directions from the Ministry. As the hon. Gentleman no doubt knows, we have a highly capable official of the B.B.C. watching all these transmissions. He does his best to make sure that they coincide with Government policy. It would hardly be in order here for me to deal with that policy, because it is the policy of the Foreign Office. The Minister in charge of propaganda must always carry out loyally our foreign policy. Nobody would wish that there should be two foreign policies. That part of the arrangement seems to have been criticised this afternoon. It is a sound arrangement that the Foreign Secretary should lay down the foreign policy of the country while the Minister in charge of propaganda should attempt to put that policy over to the countries concerned. With regard to accommodation, I agree that it is still unsatisfactory. The staff is continually increasing and must continue to increase. The difficulties of obtaining the particular kind of accommodation required are very great. We cannot take over any building that happens to be vacant. The work goes on for 24. hours a day and there must, necessarily, be underground bomb-proof accommodation.
§ Mr. Cooper
It is imperative that the foreign service should operate from Central London in suitable buildings, but it is only rarely that there is much accommodation available in Central London. There is much competition. Other Government Departments have the same requirements and they, too, are expanding all the time. The B.B.C, not 1621 being strictly a Government Department, have not had their fair share of priority, but hon. Gentlemen must not blame the authorities in charge of the B.B.C. I have done my best, and we are as anxious as anybody to improve the accommodation of the B.B.C. They have not to pay for themselves, and they have no reason for economy or parsimony. They are doing their best, and the difficulties are very great. Disappointments occur, but everything that can possibly be done is being done to improve the accommodation.
I would say to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chatham (Captain Plugge) that a great deal has been done to improve the force and strength as well as the number of our transmissions. He would not expect me—and he would be disappointed if he did—to tell him the number of new transmitters that are in operation, or the sites they occupy. Foreign propaganda is the fourth arm in political warfare. A certain amount of confidence has to be maintained. I am very often asked why things are not being done which are, in fact, being done, but the value of which would be entirely lost if that fact were known to the whole world. There are many activities of the Ministry itself to which we do not call attention or apply our own particular trade-mark. Publications are much less likely to obtain a favourable public if everybody knows that they have originated in a Government Department.
With regard to the complaints that have been made about the transmission of the Prime Minister's speech, if the Committee were aware of the facts they would take a different view. That speech, as the Committee knows, was produced at the psychological moment. There had not been long preparation for it; it was uncertain, even on the day, that the Prime Minister would deliver it that evening. He himself was waiting upon events, and he timed events with infallible accuracy. If the Germans had not attacked on Sunday morning he could not have made the speech which he did on Sunday night. That speech, of which the B.B.C. had no copy even at the time, was taken down in shorthand by somebody who listened to it, was translated into Russian and delivered in Russian within an hour or two of its first delivery here, and since 1622 then it has been continually repeated in the same language.
The power of propaganda, as of all other weapons, must depend very largely upon the time when it is used. In the early stages of a war its weight is not so great as in the last stages, when it can prove decisive. There is no dispute about the fact that propaganda against victory in arms is powerful, but when victory in arms is on your side, propaganda can press the results of victory miles further. Then propaganda can shorten the period required for the achievement of victory by months, possibly by years, and it is therefore in these early days that we should gradually perfect the machinery of propaganda, in order that when the time comes we may be ready to strike. We cannot tell yet how soon that time may come. It has been said in this Debate that it was propaganda which decided the last war. That again, if I may say so, is the result of the mistaken view that has grown up in many people's minds owing to German propaganda in the last few years. It was not propaganda that won the last war; it was the efforts of our soldiers and sailors. It was the great attack on the Western front that finally smashed German resistance, and we can still see in our mind's eye the German soldiers retreating in their hundreds and throwing up their hands. At the same time, taking full advantage of these victories, our propaganda, busy in Germany, produced the revolts and mutinies which spread. I ought to remind those people who believe that it was on the home front among the wicked communists and the Jews as the Nazi story has it, that the revolution in Germany started. The revolution did not start in any city. It was the German Navy that was first to mutiny. We shall make full use of the weapon of propaganda and we must be busy in perfecting it during these months.
§ Mr. Price (Forest of Dean)
Would the Minister say a word about the film department of the Ministry?
§ Viscountess Astor
Could he also say a word about organisation? Is the Minister satisfied about that?
§ Mr. Cooper
The work of the film department has been extraordinarily successful during the last 12 months. Our films have been exported in enormous 1623 quantities to foreign countries, and it is estimated that they have been shown to audiences totalling many millions. The great film "London Can Take It," for which Mr. Quentin Reynolds supplied the commentary for America, was shown all over the United States and was, I think, the first film that ever competed in popularity with the professional Hollywood pictures. That was followed by other films, both at home and abroad, with tremendous success. With regard to the new arrangements, so far as they alter existing conditions, I would only say that every Minister naturally wishes his own Department to play the fullest possible part in the war effort, and every Minister possibly—I do not think wrongly—is inclined to place the very greatest importance on the work his Department performs, at the expense, even, of other Departments. But Cabinet government can only be carried on by a system of give and take, by collaboration between colleagues. No one Minister can expect to be given an entirely free hand in the direction of his Department. In peace-time we are all servants of the Treasury—a very harsh master many of us have found the Treasury at times. In war-time, the iron grip of the Treasury is considerably relaxed, but it is obvious that where the interests of Ministers differ a solution can only be reached if one is prepared, on some occasion, to give way. The arrangement that has now been arrived at is one which, I believe, can be made, with good will and hard work on all sides, to work satisfactorily.
I would say one word about the staff of my Department.
§ Mr. Brooke (Lewisham, West)
Before my right hon. Friend leaves his previous point, are we to understand that he is assuring the House that he is satisfied that he can carry out adequately the duties which the House expects of his Ministry with the limited powers given him?
§ Mr. Cooper
Complete satisfaction is given to few of us, and on very rare occasions. I am sufficiently satisfied with this arrangement that I am prepared to work as hard as I possibly can to make it a success.
1624 I would like to say a word about the staff of my Ministry which, unlike most other Ministries, is composed, not mainly of Civil servants, but of men of great distinction in many walks of life, who are carrying out their present duties at great sacrifice, not only financially, but in time and convenience. They have worked hard for many months. They, also, are prepared to continue the sacrifice they are making, and whatever regrets and misgivings they may feel, they are determined to put patriotism before their private view, and continue to the best of their ability to attempt to make this experiment a success. I believe that with their loyal co-operation a success it may prove.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again," put and agreed to. — [Major Dugdale.]
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon the next Sitting Day.