HC Deb 20 March 1946 vol 420 cc1975-2000

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn." — [Mr Mathers.]

8.20 p.m.

Mr. Warbey (Luton)

After some weeks of vain effort on my part, the hand of fate has guided your eye at last, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and has given me the opportunity of raising a matter of which I gave notice several weeks ago. On that occasion, when I criticised certain appointments in our political representation abroad, and drew attention to the present character of our Foreign Service, I was subjected to a good deal of misrepresentation. It was suggested, for example, that I desired to pack the Foreign Service with members of the Labour Party. There were even accusations, in which, I regret to say, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs—who is not here yet, but, who I believe, will arrive fairly soon— seemed to join. They were accusations that I desired to introduce into this country the disreputable system of Tammany Hall politics, or what "The Observer," with that pretty, perky wit which distinguishes all the columns pre sided over by the editor of that paper, described as "the spoils for the boys system." I want to say, most emphatic ally, that I did not propose anything of the kind, nor have I ever done so.

I repudiate most emphatically the suggestion that we, or any party in the country, should propose to reward our friends for their services by giving them what are sometimes called "the plums of office." I wish to make it clear that my point is purely one of a political character. If Members will consult the official record, as they occasionally do, they will find that there is only one occasion on which I suggested that an official appointment should go to a member of the Labour Party. That particular case was that of the permanent British representative on the Security Council of the United Nation's organisation. I made that suggestion for a special reason: the Security Council of U.N.O. has to deal with questions of a very grave and far-reaching character. The permanent representative on that Council has to take decisions, very often from day to day, involving political judgment of the highest responsibility. He has, moreover, to state in public, not only before the narrow audience of the Council itself, but before the whole world—because the world is listening to the debates of the Council—the British point of view on grave international questions.

Further, the Security Council is a body which occupies a key position in world affairs. If the General Assembly of U.N.O. may be described as the germ of a world Parliament, as it has been so described by members of this Government, then the Security Council may be described as the germ of a world Cabinet, or Council. This embryo world council will have, in the years to come, increasingly to take into its hands the destiny of the whole world. It is, therefore, vital that a position in this embryo world council should be held, on behalf of the Socialist Government, by a Socialist. I, therefore, recommend to the Foreign Secretary the suggestion I made this afternoon, that we should appoint to this position a Minister of the Crown, of Cabinet rank, resident at the seat of the United Nations organisation.

But this is only the special case of a wider and more general question of the general character of our Foreign Service, to which I now wish to turn. Let us consider what are the functions of the Foreign Service, and especially of the ambassadors, the embassy staffs and the senior Foreign Office officials. One of their most important functions is the collection and collation of information, the sifting and interpreting of information, the assessing and judging of that information and, on the basis thereof, of making political judgments and even political decisions. This is not a purely technical function. It is not, for example, in the same category as the function exercised by an official who has to "yet" plans for a new trunk road, or execute details of a new housing policy. It is a function which is essentially political in character, involving knowledge and experience of political affairs, knowledge of inter national politics, of political parties and political movements of other countries, and of the political reactions of the various social groups in all parts of the world. That is a function which cannot be exercised by political neuters.

Earl Winterton (Horsham)


Mr. Warbey

Political neuters. If I may explain the term for the benefit of the Noble Lord, it means persons who have a neutral attitude towards political questions.

There is a second important function which applies to our Diplomatic Service abroad rather than to our home Foreign Office, and that is the function of representation. It is the duty of ambassadors and their staffs to state the British point of view, to show the case of Britain to other countries. In fact, in those countries the ambassadors and their staffs are the face of Britain. They are, as it were, a mirror in which the peoples of other countries see reflected the character and outlook of the people and the Government of Britain, and unfortunately I am afraid that in many cases the reflection which they see today is a false one. I have said that the function of our senior Foreign Service officials is essentially, by its very nature, a political one, and therefore, it follows that they must necessarily be influenced, in the political judgments which they are called upon to make in carrying out their duties, by their own political views and predilections.

I am aware that there has been a political tradition in our Civil Service, and even in our Foreign Service, that these officials are able to shed their own political views when they are carrying out their official tasks. That tradition, I suggest, is one which was true, or, rather, apparently true, during the long period of our history when there was no fundamental difference in the social and political outlooks of the political leaders of this country and those of their officials. It was true during that long period when the leading political parties of this country were the Liberal Party and Conservative Party following one another in and out of office without any fundamental change, and without seeking to make any fundamental change, in the basis of our society. During the whole of that long period, our Foreign Service officials were drawn from those same narrow social groups as were drawn the political rulers of this country. They were drawn mainly from the more exclusive professions, from landowning families, and from the higher branches of commerce and industry. During that period there was necessarily no serious, clash of view between the political Government and the Foreign Service officials. They came from the same social classes; they shared the same fundamental social and political outlook.

Today there is a change. A fundamental change took place in July of last year. The election of the Labour Government of this country by an over whelming majority was no mere chance swing of the pendulum. On the contrary, it was a fundamental political revolution, the first real political revolution in the history of this country since 1832; and that political revolution marked the climax of the long struggle of the common people of this country to enter into the centre of the arena of political affairs, and to play their rightful part in the Government and the conduct of the public affairs of this country. That climax has been reached, and now it has been reached we may regard July, 1945, as a watershed in the political development of this country.

But while we have had a change in our political Government corresponding to the change in the character and temper of this country, we have had no corresponding change in the character and outlook of our Foreign Service officials. fore, today, there is this situation, that we have a Government which has a certain outlook upon society, a Socialist out look, and represents the broad masses of the common people; and we have officials who are charged with the execution of their policy and with the making of political judgments and decisions whose outlook is necessarily that of the small social group who were politically defeated in July, 1945. This is, moreover emphasised by the fact that the Foreign Service is a very exclusive school. Its members still, today, are drawn from the most exclusive schools. I have taken the trouble to look up the schools and universities which were attended by our principal ambassadors and our senior Foreign Office officials. I have a list of them. I will not read out the names of the gentlemen concerned, but I will roughly indicate the character of the social background of these people. It runs something like this: Eton and Christchurch, Eton and New College, Rugby and Magdalene —

Mr. Eden (Warwick and Leamington)

Hear, hear.

Mr. Warbey

The old school tie rising. It goes on: Winchester and Balliol, Rugby and Christchurch, Eton and King's College, Cambridge —

Mr. Eden

Like the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Mr. Warbey

I am indicating the general character of the whole lot of them, and not of a few exceptions. I could go on with this list right through the Permanent Under-Secretaries, the Assistant Under-Secretaries, the Private Secretaries to the Foreign Secretary, and so on, and the same general character appears all through, still, today, six or seven months after we have had this political revolution in this country. I mention this, not because I want to discuss the merits or demerits of the education and training provided at these more exclusive public schools, but in order to show that the people who are making responsible political judgments and decisions are drawn from those narrow social groups which are able to send their sons to the more exclusive public schools in this country. This has certain serious consequences. One has the Foreign Service itself becoming a kind of exclusive public school which is able to mould the new entrants who come into it, not by prodding, but by a kind of slow and patient kindness which envelops them until it moulds them into the traditional pattern. I regret to say there is the danger that the political chiefs of the Foreign Service may them selves in time become moulded in the same way.

Earl Winterton

Now we know what is up.

Mr. Warbey

What is the result of all this? The result "is that the Foreign Secretary is not able in very many cases to carry out an effective Socialist policy. He is not able first of all because in formation on which he bases his decisions' is collected, sifted, and interpreted by people whose social and political outlook is such that they cannot, except in the most rare exceptions, be in sympathy with that of a Socialist Government. Secondly, his decisions are put into effect, executed and interpreted, especially in our foreign political representations, by people who again cannot lend sympathy in the main to the outlook of the Government. This has its effect also upon the function of our foreign representation because, as I said earlier, the people of countries abroad looking into the mirror which our embassies present to them, see reflected not the face of contemporary Britain, but that of nineteenth century defeated Britain.

Earl Winterton

Hear, hear.

Mr. Warbey

The face of the Noble Lord.

Earl Winterton

The hon. Gentleman may bring any charge he likes against me. He can say that I am a scoundrel, but he cannot accuse me of being a defeatist, either in the last war or the previous one.

Mr. Warbey

I think the Noble Lord is under a misapprehension. I did not accuse him of being a defeatist. I accused him of belonging to a social and political group which has been politically defeated in this country, and decisively defeated. Coming back to my point— [Interruption]—if the Noble Lord will allow me for one moment with that courtesy we expect from the other side of the House—I am not asking for a clean sweep. I should like one if it were possible, but we have to deal with what is practicable. It will be said that the Foreign Service is being reformed, but the Under-Secretary himself admitted in reply to questions a few weeks ago that the reforms introduced in 1943 cannot have their full effect for some years to come. During the next five to ten years we shall be passing through what will be in international affairs probably the most critical and decisive period in the history not only of this country but of the world. It is vital, therefore, that during that critical period, before these reforms can come into effect, we should have the right kind of representation abroad and the right kind of guidance in the execution of policy in our foreign service as a whole. For this reason I ask the Under-Secretary to suggest to my right hon. Friend his right hon. Friend —

Mr. R. S. Hudson (Southport)

Is he not the hon. Gentleman's?

Mr. Warbey

—that he should under take emergency action and appoint to our embassies—especially in countries where the common people have over thrown the previous ruling classes as they have here—and also to some senior position in the Foreign Service, men—I do not say Socialists and I have never suggested that they should be Socialists—who are at least not anti-Socialist. They should be men who have a moderate outlook and experience and who are capable at least of understanding what is happening in the world today and of appreciating the movement of the common people in this and other countries, and of interpreting sympathetically the views of this present Government.

Before I conclude I should like to quote what was said on the subject of a reform of the Foreign Service by Thomas Carlyle in a "Latter-Day Pamphlet" which he wrote in 1850. He said: Everyone may remark what a hope animates the eyes of any circle, when it is re ported, or even confidentially asserted, that the Foreign Secretary has in his mind privately resolved to go, one day, into that stable of King Augeas which appals human hearts, so rich is it, high-piled with the drop-,pings of two hundred years; and Hercules-like, to load a thousand night wagons with it, and turn running water into it, and swash and shovel at it, and never leave it till the antique pavement and real basis of the matter show itself clean again. To clean out the dead pedantries, universities, indolent somnolent impotencies, and accumulated dung-mountains there, is the beginning of all practical good whatsoever. … Political reform, if this be not reformed, is naught and a mere mockery. … Nay, there are men now current in political society, men of weight, though also of wit, who have been heard to say that there was but one reform for the Foreign Office—to set a live coal under it. Thomas Carlyle, when his prophet's soul was stirred to its depth, was capable of expressing himself with a picturesque violence of language which not even the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) could excel. In humbler and more prosaic terms, I merely ask the Foreign Secretary to infuse into the Foreign Service some new blood. I would not say red blood, but at least fresh and virile blood in keeping with the modern spirit .

8.48 p.m.

Mr. John Freeman (Watford)

I do not desire to detain the House for many moments, more especially since I intervened on this same subject a few weeks ago, but I would like to ask my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary one or two questions. First of all I think that my hon. Friends on this side of the House would agree that we should congratulate our hon. Friend the Member for Luton (Mr. Warbey) on having raised this matter. We are simple people and we have simple ways of judging things. We always feel, among other things, that we are doing quite well if we can invoke some reaction from the noble Lord who sits for Horsham (Earl Winterton). It is not our only standard of judgment, but if we can induce intervention from that quarter then we feel that at least we are on the right track.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Luton knows, I am not entirely in agreement with all his arguments on this matter, and I do not ' want to follow him in detail. I asked the Under-Secretary a few weeks ago whether he could give the House assurances that the 1943 reforms which were introduced into the recruitment for the foreign service by the right hon. Gentle man the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) —reforms, I may say, of an admirable nature in theory— were in fact being effectively carried out, and he assured us on that occasion that they were.

Now I do not believe that it is a good principle to make appointments in the Foreign Service by virtue of political colour, though I agree with my hon. Friend that the peculiar circumstances of our representative on the Security Council, and also the time which must necessarily elapse before any wide reform of entry into the Foreign Service can become effective, gives some grounds for considering that as a short term policy. However. I am certain that what the great majority of hon. Members wish to see is a form of entry into the Foreign Service which will enable young men and women of talent, from all ranks and classes of society, to be able to get in and play their part in this singularly important branch of national life.

Will the Under Secretary answer a few questions on the subject of the present method of selection of candidates for the Foreign Service? I may be wrong in the information that I have and, if so, I shall be very glad to be corrected. As I under stand it at present, however, there is first of all a written examination. This is only a qualifying examination, and the results of that examination are that a certain number of people are qualified for consideration for entry into the Foreign Service. The next stage, as I am in formed, is that there is a weekend party. The idea of the weekend party is not so bad as may appear at first sight. That method of grading candidates has been used with some success by the War Office during the war for the selection of officers and I believe, if it is handled in the right way, it can be quite a valuable method of ascertaining merit; but, as I am informed, even that is only a qualifying test, and at the end of that period the decisive bar to entry is the passing of a personal interview with a board appointed, as I understand, by the Civil Service Commission.

Mr. Eden

indicated dissent.

Mr. Freeman

I notice that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington dissents. If I am wrong perhaps it can be explained later on where I am wrong, but I am sure I am right in saying this, that at some stage in the procedure, and at a vital stage, candidates appear before a Board. I should like my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary to tell us, if he will, how that Board is chosen and of whom it consists, because if, as I suspect, it consists of a few senior civil servants and a few ex-members of the Diplomatic Service, then I do not consider, and I do not believe this House will consider, that that is the best way of getting new blood into the Foreign Service.

Would it be considered suitable, for in stance, that men of the calibre of the late Sir Nevile Henderson and other men of that type, admirable in their own field as no doubt they were, should judge who, out of the British nation, is most suitable to enter the Foreign Service? We all know, or at any rate, most of us who have had any connection with that form of selection know, how very easy it is to damn a man without ever being too specific about it. I have experienced in the Army, and I am certain many of my hon. Friends have, occasions where .1 man is interviewed for some appointment He has passed all the known tests by which he can be judged, and he is finally condemned by the Chairman of some tribunal or board on the grounds that he is unsound, or that his judgment is not very well balanced. Every hon. Member must know the field that there is for smothering enterprise and initiative in that method of selection. I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary can give us some very much clearer assurance than we have had hitherto that a serious attempt is being made to select men on the widest possible basis for the Foreign Service because, whatever short-term methods we may use to tide us over, that is the only long-term method by which the people of this country can make their opinions felt in diplomacy.

Before I sit down, I want to make one reference to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Melton (Mr. Nutting) who, I am sorry to see, is not here at the moment, but who, I am glad to see, has been turning an honest penny in writing articles for the "Star" newspaper. I rather hope that the Under-Secretary has seen an article which appeared under the name of the hon. Gentleman yesterday.

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs

(Mr. McNeil) indicated-dissent.

Mr. Freeman

He has not seen it? I am sorry because, in my view, as far as it went it was a very sensible article. During the course of it the hon. Gentleman suggested that it was essential that the conditions of payment for junior ranks in the Foreign and Diplomatic Service should be considerably overhauled because it was not possible for members of the British Foreign Service to entertain at the level at which they ought to be able to entertain. I do not follow the hon. Gentleman entirely in the latter part of his argument, but what I think is clear is that the emolument which at the present moment is being given to young entrants to the Foreign Service is such as to put a tremendous bar against anybody going into it who has not independent means. I do not follow the hon. Gentleman entirely in his argument about cocktail parties and so on—my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing (Mr. Hudson) cannot taunt me on that point— but I do think that the niggardly salaries which are paid are obviously designed for people who have private resources of their own and intend to go into the Foreign Service as part of their general way of life—the public school, the university, the club, and the Foreign Office—which has been so clearly described by my hon. Friend.

Will the Under-Secretary tell us, if he has the information—because I think it would be a good thing that this should go on record—how many people at present in the Foreign Service, either at home or abroad, have in fact been educated at secondary schools.

Mr. McNeil

At non-public schools?

Mr. Freeman

Yes, at State-aided non-public schools. I shall be very surprised if there are more than could be counted on the fingers of one hand. This is a most remarkable state of affairs. In all quarters of the House—even, I think, in the fastnesses of Horsham—it will be agree that whatever may be the merits or the demerits of the public school—and I hope I am not entirely damned in the eyes of my hon. Friends because I hap pen to have been educated at one myself which I think was a good one—no one will suggest that the whole reservoir of talent in this country lies at present in the public schools. Are hon. Gentle men opposite—who, to quote the words of the psalmist, "raged so furiously together" when my hon. Friend the Member for Luton was talking about this point—aware that it is extremely improbable that if the present Foreign Secretary or the present Under-Secretary of State had tried at a tender age to get into the Foreign Service, either of them would have had the faintest chance of doing so? I am quite certain that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington will agree that a state of affairs in which my right hon. Friend or my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary would be almost automatically disqualified from those posts is, in the year 1946, a deplorable state of affairs. I see he nods his head.

Mr. Eden

I am sorry, but the hon. Gentleman mistook my movement. It was merely to indicate that I was in exactly the same position as they.

Mr. Freeman

The right hon. Gentle man must allow me to say that whether he tried and was perhaps ploughed, or whether he did not try, at least the bars which I am describing did not operate in his case. I hope the Under-Secretary will assure us that these reforms which were introduced, I am sure, in the right spirit, are being implemented. I hope he will not use as an argument against them what I have heard used, that the difficulties about being able to speak another language and so on are insuperable. The House will agree that that is an invalid argument. During the war we trained soldiers for posts in S.O.E. in the most complicated Balkan languages with a few months special study. That sort of argument does not hold water for one moment. I hope the Under-Secretary in his reply will pay attention to the questions I have asked.

9.0 p.m.

Mr. Zilliacus (Gateshead)

I approach this problem from the point of view of former League of Nations officials, who had very close dealings with the Foreign Office in that capacity. We League officials had a great respect for the Foreign Office. They are not inferior to any other branch of the Civil Service, and our Civil Service is not inferior to any in the world; it is better. But, at the same time there was always a certain antagonism between us because the conception of national interest to which the Foreign Office was geared and which it was defending with all its ability and devotion was, from our point of view as League officials, an out-of-date conception. The Covenant never ranked as a major national interest in the eyes of the Foreign Office. The whole conception of our position and our needs in the world implied by our League membership was never fully recognised or accepted by the Foreign Office. The point is, that both in organisation and tradition, the Foreign Office is antiquated and needs bringing up to date in order to serve our needs in the world of today. Foreign affairs have suffered the same fate as domestic politics. Domestic politics used to be purely a matter of keeping law and order while private enterprise did the rest. Now the State has intervened nationally in economic affairs. International matters used to be a matter of diplomacy and. politics. They have now entered every field of public life and become just as much economic social and cultural matters as things dealt with by traditional politics and diplomacy. International relations have become a projection of the whole life of the nation in world affairs and, through our connection with the United Nations organisation, almost every government is going to be drawn into international affairs.

Even today, before the United Nations organisation has got working, the-Treasury and the Board of Trade have as much to do with important international relations as the Foreign Office. The Board of Trade negotiates commercial treaties, and the Treasury was the chief instrument in negotiating our Loan Agreement with the United States. From the point of view of tradition, the conception of national interest to which the Foreign Office is geared is essentially a 19th century conception. The idea that we have got to advocate in the world is our position as a sovereign State and Empire capable of defending its own point of view with its own armaments against any possible rivals. That conception of national interest clashes with the idea of working with the United Nations organisation or establishing some system of world government in which such national armaments as remain are con trolled and regulated and put at the ser vice of international law and in which we surrender a certain amount of sovereignty. We pool it with other countries.

Throughout those years between the wars it was very striking how strictly the Foreign Office based its policies on traditional ideas and disregarded the concepts and obligations of the new inter national system. It based our policy in Abyssinia on the 1906 Treaty and not on the Covenant between Italy and Abyssinia. What is needed, first of all, is some overall authority, with the Foreign Secretary as chairman, to co-ordinate the work of the different Government Departments which deal with international relations. What is needed, secondly, is that the staff of the Foreign Office should no longer be a close corporation, as distinct as they are today from, other branches of the Civil Service. They should be brought under Treasury control, as are other branches of the Civil Service, and transfers from other branches should be extended to the Foreign Office. . The long-term system of recruitment should be based on an examination, as in the case of other branches of the Civil Service, and the present method of recruitment should be abandoned except as an interim short-term measure to replenish staff after the war.

Now, as an immediate measure, we should utilise the possibility that exists in the reform of the Foreign Office, to retire on high pensions officials who are not suitable, and bring in a good deal of fresh blood at a high level from amongst temporary civil servants and officers who, during the war, were doing diplomatic or semi-diplomatic jobs, and would be qualified for drafting straight into the Civil Service. Since we are now committed to the United Nations organisation as the overriding interest in our foreign policy, we should ask young Foreign Office officials, as part of their duty, to take a thorough course in the working ' and obligations of the United Nations, including, if possible, some apprenticeship in some Department of the organisation. We have to break with the old tradition of the Foreign Office, and introduce the new modern conception of what is now our interest in world affairs.

9.3 p.m.

Mr. Eden (Warwick and Leamington)

I intervene with reluctance in this Debate, but as one who happened to be Foreign Secretary for seven years, I feel that it is time I said a word or two. As the discussion has developed I am inclined to agree with the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. J. Freeman) that this De bate has probably served a useful purpose, if only to dispel some of the extraordinary clouds, of ignorance which still hover round the heads of some hon. Members opposite. As I listened to the hon. Member for Luton (Mr. Warbey), I could only come to the conclusion that his experience of the Foreign Office, and of embassies abroad, must be extremely limited. As for the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Zilliacus), who used to represent us on the Secretariat of the League, I was staggered that he should be so ill-informed about this matter. There must have been something wrong with the Secretariat of the League if they did not understand the foreign services with whom they worked better than that. He says that we based our policy in Abyssinia not on the Covenant, but on the 1906 Treaty. Of course we based it on the Covenant. Our whole action was taken on the basis of the Covenant. There was no obligation to take action on the basis of the 1906 Treaty.

Mr. Zilliacus

The right hon. Gentle man himself, on several occasions, once in 1935, stated that our policy was based on the 1906 Treaty and not on the Covenant, which would appear to contradict what he is now saying.

Mr. Eden

Not at all, though I would say it is a good thing to observe one's treaties. It was not the treaty which called for action, but the Covenant. If the hon. Member does not know that he did not know his job on the Secretariat very well. [Interruption.] The hon. Member is shifting his ground because he does not like having his argument answered. I intend to say what I have to say whether hon. Gentlemen opposite like it or not.

Let me pass to the next point which the hon. Member raised about the Foreign Service which he criticises so much. He thought that they should, with the other branches of the Civil Service, be put under Treasury control. I do not know what the Under-Secretary of State thinks about that, but I would like the House to consider the matter carefully before they agree to do that. I do not concede that it would be wise to make the people in the Foreign Office—I do not know whether this is the idea—circulate from Department to Department. It is to a very consider able extent a specialised service. If the hon. Gentleman had been good enough to read my reforms before he made his speech—if he will listen to me for a moment—he would have seen, as the Under-Secretary knows very well, that part of the reform was precisely to enable those who are joining the Foreign Service to spend a certain period of time with other services, so that they may under stand what might be called the domestic problems of the present day, with which diplomats are apt to be unfamiliar. They should, for instance, serve in the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Health, and other Government Departments of that kind. Those are all part of the reforms of 1943 which were introduced precisely for that purpose, of which the hon. Gentle man might well have been aware before he made his speech, and which I have no doubt the Under-Secretary will tell us are in fact being carried out.

The other point he raised was that people should be retired who were unsuitable for promotion to a higher grade. I entirely agree. That is also in the reforms of 1943, if only he troubled him self to read them. In fact, a number of officials have been retired under this arrangement of 1943. That is just a case, if I may give it to the House, where I think it would be unwise to put the Foreign Service in exactly the same position as the rest of the Civil Service. It is conceivable in the Civil Service as

a whole that one can find, shall we say, a niche for somebody who cannot be promoted to the higher posts. In the Foreign Service that becomes increasingly difficult. I felt that very much when I was at the Foreign Office and I tried to break down what had been an old-time tradition that there are certain parts of the world where people less good in the diplomatic service were apt to be sent. I thought that a vicious principle, because the truth is today that all parts of the world are important. We have got to be on good relations with, and understand, the people of any part of the world. So, it is not possible in the Foreign Service, if a man is not fit for the higher posts, after a certain time in his life, to find work for him to do. In that case, it is fair to pension him off at the rank which he then holds and to allow a younger man to come on and take his place. That, I repeat, is exactly what is in the reform to which I did myself devote an immense amount of time and work because I did think it so important to try and get the postwar service on the best possible footing.

What about the conditions in which these men are coming into the Service? All sorts of things have been said about public schools, and so forth. The Under secretary will correct me if I am wrong— I can only speak from memory and I hope the hon. Gentleman will make the point clear— but if my memory is correct there is no question of the Board, to which the hon. Gentleman rightly referred, being the last fence, as it were, which the candidate had to get over, with the result that the Board, perhaps being rather old fashioned people—as the critics would have us believe—would be apt to exclude the somewhat progressive type of candidate in favour of, shall we say, the "soft shirt" kind. I think the Board is the earlier stage. Then there is the ccmpeti—tive examination, and it is the com—petitive examination that finally decides the result, though it is quite true in the competitive examination—I think I am right—there is a fairly high mark given for the viva voce impression. Here again, I have not got the report because I did not know the Debate was coming on, but I am sure I introduced a pro vision whereby it was open to enter a certain number of candidates, I think it was 10 per cent., or thereabouts, apart from the examination qualification —

Mr. McNeil

Twenty-five per cent.

Mr. Eden

May I just say what I had in my mind there? I was not altogether happy that the written examination, especially after a great war such as we have been through, would get the best type of young men for the Service. That is what we really wanted. We could not be certain of that. It is an experiment, I admit. It was done, and the House approved it at the time, and we allowed a certain percentage to come in on the grounds of their records and achievements in the war and so on, if they had the general qualifications. It is an experiment and the working out of it will have to be watched. Perhaps I may read what I said at the time: For the Senior branch— and that is the main problem of the Service— —it is intended, as soon as possible after hostilities with Germany cease and in the measure that the continued requirements of the military situation permit, to enable candidates, and particularly men now serving in the Forces, to offer themselves as competitors at a simplified ' reconstruction ' examination such as it should be possible for them to take without special study"—[Official Report, 3rd August, 1944; Vol. 402, c. 1611.] For that examination everybody can compete —

It being a Quarter past Nine o'Clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— [Mr. Simmons.]

Mr. Eden

Everybody can compete, irrespective of what their previous academic records may or may not have been. The hon. Gentleman quoted Carlyle, and what Carlyle said about the Foreign Office at that time may well have been true, but it was a long time ago, and I personally have never felt myself completely sympathetic towards Carlyle's cast of mind.

Mr. Warbey

I was not suggesting that there had not been some improvement.

Mr. Eden

If the hon. Gentleman feels really sympathetic towards that cast of mind, I begin to understand a great many of his speeches. Let me say a word about our representatives at U.N.O., and I really must say this with all the emphasis I can command. Our chief representative has to be someone, as the hon. Gentleman admitted, with great qualifications, a knowledge of international policy and a knowledge of the policies of foreign countries. I know nobody living in this country today whose knowledge of these matters is comparable to that of Sir Alexander Cadogan, and, in reply to the hon. Member for Gateshead, whose passion for the Covenant was as real and as vehemently expressed as that of Sir Alexander Cadagan, in the days of the League, and I only wish that 'the late Mr. Arthur Henderson was here o speak on that subject himself. I think the hon. Gentleman will agree that Mr. Henderson, as, indeed I myself and every body else at the Foreign Office who worked with him, had the highest possible opinion, of the judgment and courage of Sir Alexander Cadogan. I say that emphatically, and I tell the hon. Gentleman the Member for Luton that I know of no one who could better represent this Government and no one who responds less to the extraordinary description which he gave of the higher Foreign Office officials. The hon. Gentleman says that the senior Foreign Office officials should be political appointments and should more nearly represent the Government of this country. I think that, if we are to change our higher Foreign Office officials with all the changes in the Government of this country, it would be an utter calamity.

Mr. Warbey

The right hon. Gentleman has misquoted me. I did not say that all senior Foreign Office appointments should be political. I said that there should be some political appointments during this period.

Mr. Eden

When is the emergency coming to an end? When the Government change? I beg the Government to look at the experience of other countries. I can think of one which tried to cut politics out of the diplomatic service. I never felt myself, when I was working in the Foreign Office, that I was associated with some crusted Tories, and I have not thought of this or that official as holding this or that opinion. I have not the remotest idea how most of those with whom I worked at the Foreign Office voted at the General Election, or in any other General Election. For anything I know, the majority may have voted for hon. Gentlemen opposite. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen laugh, but I think it quite-likely; I know them better than hon. Gentlemen opposite. But what I am telling the House is that it would be an utter calamity if the Ministers allowed considerations of that kind to sway their judgment in the choice of officials for higher appointments. That I should regard as a disastrous decision. Now and for a great many years past —not in the times of Carlyle—Foreign Office examinations have been open to competition. If it happens that a number of Etonians or Harrovians have been successful in that competition, that shows, no doubt, that we ought to give more people the opportunity to have that education. It does not show, necessarily, that the people who have won are not, per haps, well qualified to have won. At any rate, the competition is open.

I know, of course, that many members of the Foreign Service have never had that sort of experience at all. There was one, an Ambassador at Addis Ababa, whose father was an engine driver, and there will, of course, be many others. The point I want to make is that the com petition is completely open—if I am wrong I will be contradicted—and every one has an equal chance of securing the appointment. The hon. Gentleman said that there had been a watershed at the last General Election. This is his first Parliament and when he has had a few more he will find that there are water sheds at every Election. I implore the Government not to think it necessary to change our Civil Service, or all the senior members of it, because there has been a watershed. Then, I thought I picked out in the hon. Gentleman's speech his real anxiety. He was worried lest the Foreign Secretary and the Under-Secretary, both of whom all parties in the House respect so much, should be shaped and moulded by the sinister Old Etonian Foreign Office officials. A terrible thought. What might happen to the Foreign Secretary? He might be shaped and trimmed until he was as completely Eton and King's as the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I share to the full all the hon. Member's anxiety on that score. By all means let us eschew that dreadful event.

Mr. Blackburn (Birmingham, King's Norton)

If the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends are so proud to have a Foreign Seretary and an Under-Secretary who come directly or indirectly from the working class, why should they be so afraid lest we get people of that class filling diplomatic appointments abroad?

Mr. Eden

The hon. Gentleman is under a complete misapprehension. I am not in the least afraid of anything of the kind and, in fact, I should welcome it most warmly. I wish that he and others would read my Report, when they would see that the whole object of it was to make absolutely certain that every body, wherever born, should have an equal chance of serving the country in the Foreign Service. If the Government have any suggestions to make which are an improvement on my Report and which will bring that situation about, I would warmly endorse them. What hon. Members have in mind is that in the old days one had to have 400 a year in order to go into the Diplomatic Ser vice. That was a vicious system, but it is extinct so far as the present entry into the service is concerned. If the hon. Gentleman will study my Report and can tell me that I have failed to deal with that situation, I will support the Government in what they have said.

After the last war, we brought into the Foreign Service a great many men who have since distinguished themselves. They were brought in without the full examination, largely an account of their war records. They fought gallantly and they had many decorations; they have served the country very well since. I think that is what this Government are trying to do now, and it is the right course to pursue. I really do ask them to proceed with immense care when considering this question and not to allow prejudice, or what they believe to be the political complexion of a Department, to persuade them into taking steps which they may otherwise deeply regret. In seven years as Foreign Secretary, and in many years more in serving in the Foreign Office, I have never known a more devoted and hard-working band of civil servants, and I am sure they serve the right hon. Gentleman the present Foreign Secretary with just as much loyalty and devotion as they ever served me.

9.25 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. McNeil)

I am in debted to my hon. Friend the Member for Luton (Mr. Warbey) for this opportunity, not only of debating a most important subject, but for removing some of misconceptions which I was astounded to hear existed both inside and outside this House. The Foreign Office, as my hon. Friend found from reading his Carlyle, has been fair game with the British public, and with just about as little reason, as the police have been in every comic paper and music hall. As a decent semi-educated Scot, I must always line up with Thomas Carlyle, but Thomas Carlyle was writing about a Foreign Office which even Palmerston did something about; it was reorganised al most out of recognition during the big internal changes in 1905 or 1906

Let me deal first with the question of Sir Alexander Cadogan I do not intend to spend much time on this point, be cause both my right hon. Friend and I have dealt with this appointment at some length within the last five weeks. He has not contended otherwise than that we must have a permanent representative on the Security Council. That is obligatory upon us by the first paragraph of Article 28. At any periodic meetings of the Council or when a subject demands it, my right hon. Friend or any Minister he designates will attend, but for the normal and continued session we must have a permanent member. What should be the qualifications of this permanent member? Plainly, he should have a good background of international experience. He should know the workings of the Council, the Charter and the organisation generally, and he should be a man of probity, integrity and honesty I suggest that Sir Alexander Cadogan has those qualifications. He represented His Majesty's Government at Dumbarton Oaks, then at San Francisco, throughout the Preparatory Commission and finally at the Assembly. I think it would be very difficult to match him in these qualifications in this or any other country.

My hon. Friend suggested we might have a Resident Minister of Cabinet rank. The reason for this eludes me. During a war it might be necessary to make temporary, and I suggest not very successful, experiments of that kind, but the primary job of a Cabinet Minister must be to sit in the Cabinet and regulate policy. One does not make a man a Cabinet Minister by pushing him out to the end of the earth, and making sure that he never comes inside a Cabinet room. If we are to have a Cabinet Minis- ter who does not come inside the Cabinet, all we need do is to appoint another man who, by telegram, radio, aeroplane or courier, will be instructed by the Cabinet or by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. [An Hon. Member: "A 'stooge.' "] He is not a "stooge," and do not let anyone talk lightly of our servants in that fashion, whoever makes the policy. I am surprised that my hon. Friend confines this to the Foreign Office. This social revolution does not affect only the Foreign Office. This political revolution that we have won, to the Noble Lord's discomfiture and in which I rejoice —

Earl Winterton

If they were all like the hon. Gentleman I would not worry

Hon. Members


Mr. McNeil

With the best will in the world. I must ask for your protection, Sir. Another crack like that will cost me not only my job, but my constituency. To return to my argument, if it is agreed that a Resident Minister does no more than accept instructions, then I think we see our argument clearly, and it is this, that the servant is never responsible for policy making. That refers to the permanent members of the Council as it does to every one of our representatives abroad. [An Hon. Member: "It is a fact."] My hon. Friend says, "It is a fact." The hon. Member for Luton dealt with that, in a fashion, when he said the facts are sifted, the facts are presented, contacts are made or not made—and I will come back to that in a second—but it is still a question of whether the Minister is a good Minister or a bad Minister. A good Minister knows when he has been given wise advice, and when foolish; he knows who is an efficient servant and who is a bad one. Those are qualities that we ask from a Minister. If he does not do that job then this House casts him out rather robustly. If he does not do the job he is going out. I was de lighted to hear of my hon. Friend's concern that the Secretary of State might be moulded in the Foreign Office. I take it that the hon. Gentleman approves of the policy which the right hon. Gentle man demonstrated as Foreign Secretary. He has concealed his approval for quite a long time. I turn to the more general question of representation abroad My hon. Friend said that he did not ask for the appointment of Socialists. At any rate, he did ask for the appointment of people who were not anti-Socialist. I, with my strange kind of Scottish logic, think that that does not evade the principle that what I have been asked to do is to make appointments related to a man's political opinion. I join with the right hon Gentleman. I am not making any debating point here; I am not attempting to score for a minute. I ask people like my hon. Friend—whom I knew for many years outside the House, and whom I know to be a good Socialist and a good Briton—to consider most care fully where they go when they press this argument. I thought that was a malpractice which we had buried with Lord North. It is political patronage. It leads to inefficiency; it leads to corruption.

This Civil Service of ours, in the Foreign Office and other Departments, has disadvantages of course. When I sat on the other side, and when I sat behind—as no doubt I will again—I sometimes wished for a little more celerity and a little less caution. I sometimes thought that the machine was a bit cumbersome and a bit tortuous. So it is, and we must address ourselves constantly to trying to improve it, but this British Service, and the Foreign Office which is a part of the British Civil Service, has an integrity, a zeal and a loyalty which I have never seen matched in commercial enterprise in this country, and which I know is the envy of almost every other responsible Government in the world. So let us take great care of these qualities while we seek to improve the machine. Of course it can be improved, and I want to deal with the points put to me by the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. J. Freeman). We are pressing ahead with the reforms, and I take the very greatest pleasure, along with many others, in paying due tribute to the right hon. Gentleman opposite for the substantial, persuasive and sensible way in which he dealt with those reforms which the Foreign Office and the Foreign Secretary have now the opportunity of enjoying. We are going ahead with them and perhaps I might try to deal with them briefly.

It is not quite true that there are the three steps of an entrance examination, then the Board, and then some other final selection board. There are two processes just now, which I must telescope. There is this reconstruction process and then later we shall have a more normal method of entry, but one based upon the same system. The entrance examination is not designed to test people's academic merits. It is designed to select people of a generally good mental level and of high character and morality. There is a linguistic test, which is not designed to find out how much of a foreign language a man-knows, but whether he has a normal facility for learning it. I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend that despite all the nonsense which we cheerfully accept about being bad linguists, during the war, in six or nine months, we turned out in the Army first rate men in the Central European languages. In this test very few people have failed. They then go on to what was called the "week-end party," which is really a three- or four-day test.

Perhaps, too, I might use this opportunity to tell my hon. Friend the Member for Luton how misinformed he is about the composition of the selection board. I cannot give the exact proportion, but there is a Civil Service chair man, there is an ex-ambassador, there are business men, and there are most excellent Labour men, known to every one on these Benches, men like Mark Hodgson, George Gibson and Lionel Elvin. I cannot give the full details because I never thought for a moment that any one on these Benches would make such an assertion. These men know their job. They have been through the workshops, they have chosen men for our party, perhaps they have chosen some of us on these benches, and they know how to select. That, in the meantime, is the final stage. This worked satisfactorily during the war and will continue.

Now I come to the figures for which I was asked about the number of people who had been to public schools. Oddly enough, I did take some trouble in looking up the recent entries, and I have a somewhat remarkable discovery to disclose. Of the last 58 young men who have come into the Foreign Service, 19 have never been at any well-known public school. In applying the term "public school" I took a very strict test. If the school appeared in the Headmasters' List, I said it was a well-known public school. Those 19 had never been to such a school. [An Hon. Member: "Was that good? "] I think it is a reasonable figure. At any rate, I am being told from behind me that entrants had come from Eton, Harrow, Rugby and Winchester. It is the opposite. Of this list of 58, only one came from Eton.

Mr. Eden

Too bad.

Mr. McNeil

I want to give some other figures.

Mr. Blackburn

Could the hon. Gentle man make it clear whether it was two-thirds or one-third who had not been to public schools?

Mr. McNeil

Of the 58 who came in, 19 had never been to a well-known public school. Many other schools were represented, including those of Scottish towns. Montrose was one. Some came from London County Council schools, some from Liverpool, some from Manchester, some from Leeds. They came from schools which I have always considered to be the backbone of the high level of British education. We are only now feeling in the Civil Service and the Foreign Service the full effect of the Education Act of 1902.

We shall continue in this way in order to get these fellows, because new forces are arising in every country, and we have to make new kinds of contacts. For that reason we are appointing labour attaches. Ten labour attaches have been appointed and some more are going next month; and scientific and agricultural attachés, too We shall use these methods to bring in young men who are really representative Britons. We are doing that as fast as we can. It will not give us quick results, but do not let us throw away substantial gains for doubtful, short term returns. Let us build the machine in the fashion that we are doing.

Mr. Blackburn

Before the hon. Gentle man sits down will he deal with this point? The argument has not been put from these benches at any stage, that it is desirable to have political appointments in the Ser vice. The argument that has been put, and I would ask him to deal with it, is that we should have appointments of people drawn from the economic and social background which will enable them to understand the economic and social back ground of the world today, where new . forces are arising, all over Europe and elsewhere throughout the world.

Mr. McNeil

I think I did deal with that. I said that if the Secretary of State does not choose the right people, then he is a bad Minister and the House must, deal with him. But the Secretary of State must choose the men from inside the Service. He must not step outside and arbitrarily take people here and there into the Service, or, he will destroy, from top to bottom, the sense of esprit de corps of the Service, which must not be thrown away.

It being a Quarter to Ten o'Clock, Mr. Deputy-Speaker adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.