Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a further sum, not exceeding £20, be granted to His Majesty towards defraying the charges for the following services relating to the Central Office of Information and the Economic Information Unit for the year ending on the 31st March, 1950, namely:
|Civil Estimates 1949–50|
|Class VII, Vote 10, Central Office of Information||10|
|Class I, Vote 4, Treasury and Subordinate Departments||10|
§ —[Mr. Glenvil Hall.]
§ 7.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Brendan Bracken (Bournemouth)
After the shock to the system of the Lord President of the Council, I feel I must be very careful about my criticisms tonight. It is not often that he has such a poor majority in the House, so I shall have to do my very best not to upset the right hon. Gentleman's temper. Let me begin by telling him that I think he will agree with me that it would be altogether inappropriate to bring party spinosities into this Debate. Controversy is inevitable; in all matters of publicity controversy must reign, as the Lord President knows.
We must try tonight to consider the merits or the defects of a technical service. I have heard with a good deal of irritation charges against some persons in high places in the Central Office of Information. I have been told that they who have long been members of the Socialist Party must, therefore, be Socialist propagandists. I cannot give any credit to such charges. I am sure that the C.O.I. staff contains many who sympathise with the Socialist Party, the Liberal Party and the Tory Party, but I also know that they are faithful public servants and would not betray the trust put in them.
§ Mr. Wyatt (Birmingham, Aston)
Why does not the right hon. Gentleman tell the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter)?
§ Mr. Bracken
That seems to be rather an irrelevant interruption. I speak tonight with some familiarity on this particular topic, because all through the war I was told that both the B.B.C. and the Ministry of Information were staffed either by Tories, Socialists and at one time Communists, but I want to make it quite clear, knowing a few of the officers concerned, that I do not believe that the public servants in the C.O.I. have any party allegiance today. Their allegiance is to the State.
As I have already said, this Debate must inevitably cut across party lines. Some of my hon. Friends, and indeed one or two of my right hon. Friends, think that the C.O.I. serves or can serve a useful purpose. Some Members of other parties disagree. Perhaps I ought to explain at the outset that I do not believe that any Ministry of Information or a Government information bureau serves any good purpose in peace time. I should be very inconsistent if I were to do so. I was one of the very few Members of Parliament—I think there were only four or five—who strongly opposed Mr. Chamberlain's decision to set up a Ministry of Information in peace time. In looking back on it, I wish my opposition had been successful.
When I took some responsibility for the Ministry of Information in 1941 I obtained the then Prime Minister's assent to my stating publicly that the Ministry would end with the war. That statement cheered up the public when things were going very badly for Britain. I do not believe in Government organisations handling news, printing magazines avid running news services or being big film producers in peace time.
§ Mr. Bracken
The hon. Member really ought to toy about with his revolving toothbrush. He contributes very little to our debates. I must now repeat what I said. I do not believe in Governments running news services or being big film producers in peace time. Nor am I impressed by the argument that if a Government bureau—and I think that is the best way of describing the Central Office of Information—sticks to the dissemination of facts it will do no harm and may do good. The late Dr. Goebbels' most effective propaganda did 965 not consist in spreading frigid and calculated lies. He arranged his facts to suit his argument.
I am not in any way comparing the virtuous C.O.I. with Dr. Goebbels' organisation, but I do assert that Government-distributed news, Government newspapers or magazines are tainted by their origin. These are only my fallible personal opinions and I daresay some members of my party may disagree with me, so I shall try to examine the affairs of the C.O.I. as impartially as I can. I am not very optimistic, Mr. Butcher, that I shall earn any sort of tribute for impartiality.
§ The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Morrison)
Before the right hon. Gentleman passes from the main point, does he really mean to say that this very important pronouncement of his during the war, that the Ministry of Information would be brought to an end at the end of the war—and I am not discussing the merits—was settled personally between him and the then Prime Minister, and that no Cabinet Committee had a word in the matter at all?
§ Mr. Bracken
First of all, the right hon. Gentleman was not so important in the Cabinet of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) as he is in the present Cabinet. He was not a Member of the War Cabinet at that time. If he had been I think he would have known that, in point of fact, the War Cabinet were as delighted as were the public by the news that the Ministry of Information was coming to an end. We must not become involved in Cabinet secrets, however.
§ Mr. Morrison
The right hon. Gentleman started this and I only want to know whether this very important pronouncement was made solely on the personal authority of himself and the Prime Minister?
§ Mr. Bracken
My personal authority was very small then, as always, but the Prime Minister was perfectly in his rights to give that assurance. I stated it many times in this House and the right hon. Gentleman, the Lord President, did not resign from the Government when the peccant Minister of Information made that statement; he stayed silent, for once. Do not let us go into Cabinet secrets, however.
§ Mr. Bracken
The word "dictatorship" comes very ill from the mouth of the right hon. Gentleman, the great black spot deliverer to Prime Ministers.
The first question which I have to ask tonight is, are we justified in expending the enormous sums on publicity at the present time that we are asked to spend in this White Paper? The Chancellor of the Exchequer is constantly lecturing employers and trade unions on the necessity for cutting spending, and yet the Government are spending more than £16 million a year on publicity. This gross extravagance is a positive encouragement to those who serve the nationalised industries to press their wage claims and it is also a tonic to inflation.
My next question is: Is the C.O.I. really necessary? Having read its report with the greatest care and having tried to follow its operations, I cannot see any justification for maintaining this enormously over-staffed office. In addition to this staff, the Government maintain an army of public relations officers and publicity men at home and abroad. Here I am not taking into account the immense number of public relations officers in the new nationalised industries. I maintain that there is no justification for all the money and the manpower thus expended.
I have been looking through some of the magazines issued by the Central Office of Information and I can only describe them as pathetic. What is the sense of asking our overburdened taxpayers to finance the publication or the distribution of magazines in the French Union, in Belgium, in Switzerland, in Holland, in Italy and in Flanders? Why should we publish papers in China and Indonesia? What is the sense of sending magazines financed by our taxpayers to India and Pakistan? Or to many other parts of the world?
I know very well the difficulties of producing a newspaper and I hope I shall not hurt the feelings of anyone connected with the C.O.I. if I say that, on the whole, their magazines have an amateurish quality. I do not blame them for that because, of course, the principal responsibility rests upon those who set up this Central Office of Information and not on its devoted staff. Some 967 body ought to tell the planners responsible for setting up the C.O.I. that magazine production is not only one of the most complex and costly of all businesses, but, indeed, is one of the most risky. In my comparatively short lifetime I have seen seven major magazines, at one time enjoying great prosperity, disappear without a trace.
I must say that the production of magazines is not a business for amateurs. I am not suggesting for a moment that there are no persons with a considerable knowledge of magazine production in the Central Office of Information, but I say that, taking it all in all, their magazines are marked by amateurism. In a sense I do not think it would be an insult to say that they are a sort of glossy parish magazine—indeed, a series of glossy magazines. When they are circulated in countries where there are papers like the "Illustrated London News" or "Country Life," or "Life" or the "Saturday Evening Post," or the many Continental magazines most attractively printed and produced, the only conclusion the reader can reach, if he makes a comparison between the C.O.I. publication and those magazines, is that the British official magazines are pretty poor stuff.
Again, I must ask a question of the Lord President of the Council: what is the sense of the Central Office of Information broadcasting or telegraphing daily news services to various parts of the world? It was necessary in wartime, when communications were greatly strained. Why is it necessary today? The B.B.C. is one of the most trusted news givers on earth. The English news agencies are both enterprising and reliable. Furthermore, there are large numbers of highly-accomplished Dominion and foreign correspondents in London. As these gentlemen are independent witnesses, the news they give of Britain is acceptable to their readers everywhere and, with a few insignificant exceptions, they give a very fair report of happenings here.
In the darkest days of the war our best friends in journalism abroad were, of course, the American newspaper correspondents. The Dominion newspaper correspondents, of course, were with us from the beginning. I say it is an insult to the great corps of foreign corre- 968 spondents in London for the Government to attempt in a blundering amateurish way to emulate their efforts or compete with their efforts. Of course, the news sent by correspondents accredited by great newspapers in the United States and other parts of the world to Britain is far more acceptable than any news derived from Governmental sources.
I am not suggesting for a moment that there is any slant in the news distributed or broadcast by Government agencies; I merely say that it is unnecessary and I must tell the Lord President that even if the Angel Gabriel were in charge of a Government information service, most of the editors would suspect it of propaganda. The Central Office of Information defends its news and features services on the ground that—and I quote from a sentence in its last report—They are provided by journalists for journalists.But the journalists who work for the Central Office of Information are paid by the Government, and I say that any news issued from this country that is paid for by the Government does not have any effect on the opinion that foreigners hold of Britain. I think the Government should have nothing whatever to do with the distribution of news.
I am afraid also that it must be said of much of the Central Office of Informations film production, that it can be described only as poor stuff. I have taken the opinion of some theatre owners who are badgered to show those films, and, on the whole, they say they are well-meaning but crude films. I am sorry to interrupt the Lord President's conversation. I hope I am not disturbing him.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
The right hon. Gentleman ought not to be so touchy. I am checking up some of his statements.
§ Mr. Bracken
I have received many letters giving a highly critical account of the quality of many of the lecturers employed by the Central Office of Information. I also have received complaints about the fatuity of some of its divisions. I am not going to say much about lecturers, because during the war I suffered considerable anguish through the indiscretions of lecturers who were 969 operating either abroad or at home. Finally, the Ministry of Information came to the conclusion that it would loose no more lecturers on the United States of America. But I do hope that the Lord President will look into this matter of briefing lecturers, and that he will also remember that in times like these, and after a long war, and after people have put up with a long series of lectures, there is not much popularity nowadays for lectures given by persons acrcedited by the Central Office of Information.
I have received many criticisms of the operations of the Central Office of Information. I shall not burden the House by reading them all, but I must make one exception in favour of a copy of a letter I received today from my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan)—who has most appropriately arrived this second. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley is head of the great publishing house of Macmillan. This letter I am about to read may seem to many people to be almost incredible. Certainly, if one had to compile an anthology of futility this letter would occupy a prominent place. Here it is:
§ "Central Office of Information,
§ Block 2, Montague Mansions.
§ Crawford Street,
§ Dear Mr. Allen,
§ Polish rights—"
I do not mention the name of the firm.
The above named publishers are interested in the Polish language rights in 'Gulliver's Travels' by J. Swift. If the rights are still available, could you please let me have a reading copy and your terms for this firm?
§ Mr. Bracken
I think that, in all the circumstances, we should not mention the civil servant's name, but I shall give it to the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Bracken
I shall give the name to the right hon. Gentleman, but I do not think it is fair to mention the civil servant's name publicly in connection with this indiscretion or folly. This letter, if you please, came from the Copyright Section of the Central Office of Information. It is evidence of the great sense of honesty of my right hon. Friend that 970 he did not immediately respond to the lavish invitation offered to him by the Central Office of Information. Indeed, he might have added that the film rights were also available.
§ Mr. Bracken
Swift took great pains to conceal the authorship of "Gulliver's Travels," and was greatly delighted by the story of the sailor who said that he knew Captain Gulliver well, but he lived at Wapping and not at Rotherhithe. More than 200 years have passed since the secret of this authorship was pierced. That fact should be taken into account by the Central Office of Information. As hon. Members know, this book was a literary earthquake in the eighteenth century. Voltaire, who was then an exile in England, made it popular reading all over the Continent.
I should have thought that no educated person in the world—save the copyright officers in the Central Office of Information—was unaware that Swift has been dead for two centuries. Oddly enough, Swift, in 1731, anticipating the way posterity might treat him, wrote a poem on his death. I think it is rather fun to read it.Some county squire to Lintot goes"—I must explain that Lintot was an inferior Macmillan—Enquires for Swift in verse and prose.Says Lintot, 'I have heard the name:He died a year ago,' the same …His way of writing now is past.Lintot was a strange publisher, but not so strange as some of the denizens of the Copyright Department of the Central Office of Information.
While I think that letter is funny, I am not suggesting that the Central Office of Information lacks many men and women of great ability and devotion to duty; but I do say that they are being set an impossible task by the Government. This office is a crazy contraption for which none of the officers of the Central Office of Information appears to have any responsibility. It was set up by planners. Let me make one more quotation from Swift which perfectly fits the planners:They have the misfortune to be perpetually mistaken.These planners knew little or nothing about the production of newspapers, 971 magazines, or any other publicity affair. They, in fact, have muddled up the functions of the Ministry of Education with amateurish magazine production and perspiring, pointless propaganda. They have nauseated the public with endless repetitions upon every subject.
The control of the C.O.I. is worthy of its planners. I read a speech last year by the Lord President which gave us a rather long picture of this wondrous organisation. Apparently, it is ruled by a Ministerial Committee with the Lord President in the Chair. What a silly idea to set up a Committee of busy Ministers to control a publicity organisation. I think there are something like seven or eight Ministers apparently responsible under the Lord President's chairmanship for exercising authority over the unfortunate Central Office of Information. I have a great respect for the Lord President's administrative abilities. Let me remind him that he is also the active, not to say bustling, chief-of-staff of the Socialist Party. His right hon. Friend the Minister of Health had the impudence to describe him as a Tammany boss. Who am I to better that description? I think that it is altogether wrong that a gentleman so despised should in fact be the ministerial head of the Central Office of Information.
I have one serious complaint to make about the Lord President's approach to his task as Chairman of the Ministerial Committee that rules the Central Office of Information. Last year the right hon. Gentleman perpetrated an outrage. He came down to this House, and, in outlining the purposes of the Central Office of Information, he said that the national morale would have been in a dangerous state unless the Central Office of Information had not been there to warn the people of the economic facts of life. Nothing could be more arrogant or foolish. Such words have not been said in this House since the days of Cromwell.
§ Mr. Bracken
If he did, he would have said them in better English. I say that it is an insult to the British people to say that their morale is so shaky that it needs the succour of the presence of the Lord President and the Central Office of 972 Information. I hope that we shall not hear language like this ever expressed in the House again.
The Central Office of Information might serve a useful purpose as a distributor of Departmental statements and as the controller of Government advertising. Think how much paper, binding and printing facilities that would have been invaluable for the production of educational books would be saved, if the Central Office of Information were turned into a unit attached to the Stationery Office which is a well-organised common service for Government Departments. As the Lord President has been busy with his confidential man-of-affairs, let me say to him once again that the shortage of educational books in this country is a hampering, indeed, almost a tragic blow to many primary schools, secondary schools and even to the universities. I assert that if the paper used for these magazines and the many kinds of propaganda put out by the C.O.I. were diverted to educational purposes a great service would be rendered to Britain. Furthermore—and I attach some importance to this, my last point—if my suggestion were adopted and the C.O.I. became a unit of the Stationery Office the talents of very many able civil servants who now serve the C.O.I. could be put to better purpose. To sum up, the present sprawling organisation of the Central Office of Information is a costly absurdity, and I hope that the Government will get rid of it as soon as possible.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Wyatt (Birmingham, Aston)
The speech to which we have just listened bears a remarkable similarity to the speech delivered last year by the right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan).
§ Mr. Wyatt
Unfortunately it was not so good because the right hon. Member for Bromley had quite a number of jokes in his speech, whereas the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken had only one joke which he rather laboured, and which, in any case, he got from the right hon. Member for Bromley; otherwise it was a very good joke and we enjoyed it.
§ Mr. Bracken
If the hon. Gentleman thinks that it is a joke that the Government should pay the salary of a civil ser- 973 vant to write to a publishing house to ask about the possibility of producing the work of an author who died 200 years ago, I do not call that a joke; I call it a scandal. Let me, furthermore, tell the hon. Gentleman that a joke in his mouth is certainly no laughing matter.
§ Mr. Wyatt
I am sorry that the only merit that I detected in the right hon. Gentleman's speech was apparently not supposed to be there in any case. Apparently, he told us the story not because it was amusing but because he thought he had unearthed some public scandal because some very minor civil servant in a section of one of the Departments of State had made a mistake.
§ Mr. Harold Macmillan (Bromley)
As I am somewhat responsible for this, I want to make it quite clear, first, that for many generations publishers have been quite able themselves to sell their translation rights of those books still in copyright, and if they had not been able to do so a very large number of efficient literary agents exists who could perfectly well handle this business. I regard it as folly that a section of this office, under the control of the Lord President of the Council, should be set up to deal with translation rights which could be ably dealt with by publishers or literary agents; and if it is set up, without the courtesy of informing the publishers that it has been set up, it should at least carry out its duties efficiently.
§ Mr. Wyatt
Last year it was clear that the Debate which we had on C.O.I. was meant to be the initiator of a comic series with the right hon. Member for Bromley as the chief performer. This time it is going to be a double act as we have advantage of having two chief performers at once on this occasion. Not only that, but the right hon. Member for Bromley is quite wrong in what he has told the House, I, in a minor and humble way, have a connection with copyright myself. I happen to edit a book periodical which comes out once a year and many times during the year following the publication of that book, I get letters from the copyright section of C.O.I. saying that there have been inquiries from such and such a country in Europe or elsewhere to reprint the work of a particular author in the periodical. The copyright section performs a useful service.
974 The difficulty in discussing the Central Office of Information in this House is that the Opposition will not and cannot bring themselves to take the matter seriously. They wish to display their sometimes quite funny music-hall tricks and double acts, but they do not want a serious discussion on information. They want to poke fun at a few civil servants who cannot come here and answer back.
§ Mr. Wyatt
It is not my job to ask for the name. I am sure that the right hon. Member for Bromley will have plenty of opportunity to speak later on in the Debate, and I am now going to get on with my subject matter. The right hon. Member for Bournemouth (Mr. Bracken) said that we were going to have a quiet objective discussion on the subject of information. It is going very nicely so far. Let us turn to his main criticism, which was that the Central Office of Information—and I hope that I am right—is totally unnecessary because it performs services which are already performed by someone else or do not need to be performed at all. If I am wrong as to what he said, I shall gladly give way to him so that we can get the matter quite right. As the right hon. Gentleman does not intervene I gather that I am not wrong.
The real test that I think must be applied to the Central Office of Information, which costs £4,000,000 a year, is: What are the results that we get from that expenditure? We can divide them, broadly, into two categories: The results achieved at home and overseas. Most people would agree that today the country is far better informed on economic matters than it was before the war, that there is a far greater sense of what is at stake, of the issues involved, and what is required from each person than there ever was in the days when we did not have an office of information at all.
§ Mr. Driberg (Maldon)
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman suggests that the results were due to misinformation.
§ Mr. Wyatt
It has been very remarkable to see how well our needs have been understood, including the need for increased production. Also we can see some really fine achievements from a number of specific campaigns run by the Central Office of Information. Consider, for instance, the campaign to get recruits into the cotton industry. In 1946 there were only 23,000 new entrants into the cotton industry; in 1947 only 26,000; but in 1948 there were 47,000, and it is not a coincidence that in April, 1948, the Central Office of Information began a campaign to attract people to work in the cotton industry, when there was at once an increase in the number of people coming forward to work in that industry.
§ Mr. Wyatt
I really think I have been interrupted quite sufficiently by the hon. Gentleman's right hon. Friends on the Front Bench.
Much the same thing applies to the campaign begun a little later in the year to attract people into the woollen industry. There again, the number of recruits into that industry was almost doubled as a result of the Central Office of Information press and poster campaign.
Leaving the economic field, let us consider the campaign which has now been run for nearly eight years to make people aware of the need to immunise their children against diphtheria—a very important matter. In 1940 and 1941 about 45,000 new cases of diphtheria were notified each year. At the end of eight years' campaigning by the Central Office of Information and its predecessor, the Ministry of Information, the number of new notified cases each year has dropped to 8,000. If that is not a remarkable achievement in the field of publicity and advertising I really do not know what is. That campaign alone, by reducing the number of notified new cases of diphtheria has saved the taxpayer £2 million a year—because that is the saving in hospital treatment by the reduction of those notified cases every year. So even on that one campaign alone, which at the moment costs £35,000 a year in press and poster advertising, £2 million a year is saved for the State, and 2,500 nurses are released for other work. Now, that is 976 nearly half the cost of the Central Office of Information at home. To my mind, that in itself would justify the existence of the C.O.I., if it did not do anything else.
But it does many other things. Recently, there was a great shortage of teachers in the schools, as every hon. Member knows. There was an emergency, and it was necessary to recruit new teachers as quickly as possible. From June to September, 1948, the Central Office of Information ran a Press and poster campaign to encourage people to undergo emergency teachers' training courses. Before that campaign began, there were roughly 100 applications a week from people to undertake emergency training teachers' courses. After the campaign applications rose to 600 a week—six times as many. And as a result of the Press and poster campaign launched by the Central Office of Information they got all the teachers required. I notice that the right hon. Member for Bournemouth is not laughing any more. I suppose he thinks that was quite useful.
§ Mr. Bracken
The hon. Gentleman seems to have got his facts wrong. What happened was that the Government encouraged 10,000 young men to be trained as teachers; they then discovered that they wanted women teachers and not men teachers. Of all the muddles I have seen in my lifetime, the muddle the Ministry of Education made on that occasion was the worst, and if the hon. Gentleman is a temporary supporter of the Government he should recognise that fact.
§ Mr. Wyatt
It is very difficult to distinguish between abuse, facetiousness and argument in the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman. The fact I was talking about—which he has not denied, so his interruption, as usual, is quite irrelevant—was that before a campaign was started to encourage people to undergo emergency training to become teachers there were 100 applications a week, and after the campaign had been started there were 600 applications a week. That is all I am discussing. I am not trying, in this Debate on the C.O.I. initiated by the Opposition, to discuss the work of the Ministry of Education.
Those are but a few examples of the work done at home by the Central Office of Information, which in themselves show 977 that this body is performing a very valuable public service well justifying the amount of money spent. Indeed, they are doing it very cheaply. But there are other campaigns, such as encouraging recruits into the agricultural industry, and getting temporary workers on the land during harvesting, road safety campaigns, and many others about which hon. Members know.
There is one point of substance, and only one, in the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman which needs to be answered, and that is whether this job should not be done by somebody else. It is quite true that the Ministry of Education could do the advertising for emergency teachers, that the Ministry of Health could do the advertising for diptheria immunisation, and that all the other Departments could do their own advertising. But in this matter the Government have followed the best example offered to us by private enterprise. In a vast concern like, say, Shell Mex, the publicity for all its various branches is not conducted by each Department as it wants to sell a particular product. The expert advice is centralised, so that when a particular commodity has to be sold, or when a new product comes on the market, the department goes to that central advice bureau where the expert knowledge is and gets the best advice to enable them to do the job; they get the thing done professionally, instead of doing it in an amateur, inefficient and expensive way.
That is precisely what the C.O.I. does. It offers an expert advisory service to the Departments of State; when they require something of the kind I have just been describing, a department of the C.O.I. can do it in the most efficient and cheapest way. If the C.O.I. did not exist, its work would have to be done by all the various Departments of State. And not only that, but it would cost much more than £4 million, because it would be expensive and inefficient to add all those various branches of the C.O.I. on to the Departments of State.
We now begin to come to the real hub of the right hon. Gentleman's argument—an argument which, as can be seen from the asinine jeers of his hon. Friends sitting behind him, is very dear to the Tory heart. They do not want the people to have any information at all; they never have done; certainly no accurate 978 information. Now, what does the right hon. Gentleman tell us? He says: "Why have a Central Office of Information? There are many other agencies which produce news and facts." Of course there are. There is all the Tory Press, which will produce as much misinformation as you like. The right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends say: "For goodness sake don't let us have anything accurate going out because we may get rumbled; the people may realise what is efficient and what is not, what is desirable and what is not. We want to try to put the blanket of obscurantism over the whole country." Does the right hon. Gentleman want to interrupt now?
§ Mr. Bracken
No, but I have been challenged. I have been told that we want to issue a lot of mis-information. May I remind the hon. Member of a statement made by one of his own leaders, the Minister of State, in New York, that the British Press is one of the most accurate if not the most accurate in the world? Does he dissent from that statement?
§ Mr. Wyatt
It is not saying much that it is one of the most accurate in the world, nor is it so voluntary spirited that it will carry through all sorts of schemes which only the Government can do. Presumably, the right hon. Gentleman does not want any campaigns on diphtheria immunisation or road safety; but wants the country to drift along in an aimless sort of way, particularly on the economic front, so that we can have an economic crisis when perhaps the Tories will get back, which is the only way they will get back. And so we come back to this point, that the real truth of the matter is that the Conservative Party do not want any information at all. It is not the C.O.I. they object to, but the fact that people are now being told things for the first time in history and really learning what the world is all about. So much for the home front side of the matter.
I should like now to deal with the extraordinary contention that it is undesirable for British sponsored magazines to be published in France and, presumably, the Far East and China, that it is a great pity to do this at all and that in any case they are all so amateur that no one buys them because their commercial rivals are so much better. If that 979 is so, how is it that every month during 1948 the average number of magazines printed by the C.O.I. has been 1,700,000?
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre (New Forest and Christchurch)
If the hon. Member says that they are sold, will he kindly say where they are sold and how much currency has been received for them? Will he also say where this is to be found in the Estimates now under discussion?
§ Mr. Wyatt
It is not my responsibility to dig up all the facts in this Debate for the hon. and gallant Member. I am quite prepared to give some of the facts, but I cannot, quite obviously, give all the details out of my head. I can tell the hon. and gallant Member, however, that the magazine "Buick" in Germany sells 200,000 a month—
§ Mr. Wyatt
"Buick." Obviously the hon. and gallant Member has never heard of it and therefore has made no investigations into the C.O.I., as it is one of their principal magazines. Why do Members opposite come down to the House to debate the C.O.I. if they have not made investigations in the first place? The same applies with many other magazines produced by C.O.I. which are both bought and very popular. There is no need to discontinue such magazines so long as they can be sold and can put forward the attitude of mind of this country.
The right hon. Gentleman then goes on to complain about the news services. "Oh dear me, why are we sending out news from this country? There are plenty of journalists reporting back to their countries," says the right hon. Gentleman. He should not display his ignorance quite so much. If he went abroad to places like the Far East, he would find that large numbers of papers are published which cannot afford to pay agencies for the use of their feature articles. They are only too glad to take articles free from the British Press 980 Attaché, which reflect this country in quite a good light. Many of these papers have a wide circulation, even running into hundreds of thousands in the vernacular and therefore bring before the people who read them the facts, figures and information concerning this country which otherwise would not be told.
These people would not know where we stand on the major issues of the day without these news services. If these news services were of no value, surely the Embassies would have reported back that no one was using them and would we please discontinue them. This is not the case; they are asking for them more and more because of their great value. [Interruption.] I can see that we have now returned to the facetious Conservative attitude towards information. Apparently it is all very funny and a big joke if some good service is being done for the country.
I thought about a year ago that we really did need a more vigorous policy in our information services. I felt that what we really wanted was a Minister of Information and not merely the Lord President of the Council exercising a sort of supervisory eye on things. I do not often repent when I disagree with the Lord President but in this case I do to a certain extent. I think that his view has worked out rather better than mine. The system as far as home affairs are concerned has settled down quite well. Its deficiencies of a year ago were due very largely to the fact that it was a new system and the Departments had not got used to the best way to work it. On the other hand, I cannot say anything very different from what I said last year about the overseas services. About 40 per cent. of the staff of the C.O.I. is occupied with the overseas services, and over £1 million of the budget of the C.O.I. is spent on these services.
The trouble is that the people who implement information activities overseas are employed by the Foreign Office and are Foreign Office officials. It is part of the new doctrine of the Foreign Office that every person who is in the diplomatic service should be trained in all aspects of overseas work, which includes working as a Press or information officer for a period of time. Being an information officer is not the sort of thing one can get the hang of or learn about in 981 a short period of time. It is a very professional job.
I believe there is a great danger, unless the people employed overseas to disseminate our information are members of the staff of the C.O.I., that the work will become very much more amateur and will justify some of the strictures of Members opposite. It is a great pity that the Foreign Office maintain this rather rigid attitude towards the staff. It is very difficult for those people who produce the stuff in the C.O.I. over here to have so many amateurs telling them what they ought to do. I am referring particularly to the Foreign Office.
I was talking recently to the editor of one of the magazines produced by the C.O.I.—I shall not give its name—who told me that he was liable to be approached by 19 different people to include matters in his magazine or to be asked why he had included such and such a matter. These were people who did not understand the technical side of the job, and it took him a great deal of time to get his magazine tidied up and straightened out after a lot of rather useless interference from the Foreign Office. If only he could deal with one co-ordinating organisation or one person he would be better off. He had the technical knowledge to produce a professional job selling a large number of copies every month, despite the right hon. Gentleman's observations, and did so, but too close an interference from the Foreign Office made it difficult.
I feel that the Government should look into the question of the Foreign Office being so closely linked up not only with policy but with the actual dissemination of information. No one suggests that the Foreign Office should not have the major say about what is put out overseas, but they should not have any say about the technical side of it, because there are others who can do it so much better.
I believe that the Committee should express itself as being well satisfied with the work of the C.O.I. during the past year. It is a great misfortune for this particular Department that it always comes in for "smart Alec" jokes and cheap "cracks" of the kind which we have heard from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bournemouth. There are very few people on the other 982 side of the Committee who bother seriously to consider what it does. Instead, they prefer to make superficial jokes. This is all very wounding to the devoted civil servants who do a serious job over the year, and who are not solely concerned with three hours' amusement once a year in May. It is regrettable that the Opposition should take this line, because the C.O.I. have done a first-class job both at home and overseas.
I hope my right hon. Friend will deal with some of the charges which are continuously made by hon. Members opposite about political bias. It is all very well for the right hon. Member for Bournemouth to say that he does not believe there is any political bias, but some of his hon. Friends behind him apparently do not believe it. For instance, the hon. and gallant Member for New Forest and Christchurch (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre) raised today the question of political bias in a Budget pamphlet. The hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) is always doing it, and so are others. It is most disgraceful continually to accuse officials of political bias when they cannot reply, and when it is not even true anyway. On the Budget pamphlet, when I first opened it I thought the bias was against the Labour Party because the first statement in it was that the £ was worth only half what it was before the war, that a basket of shopping which used to cost £1 would now cost £2. I do not believe that is true; for instance, many rationed goods are very little higher in price than they were before the war.
But I did not raise any question of political bias; I did not say that there was a Tory in the C.O.I. who was spreading this information. I took it that someone had taken a slightly different point of view from mine. It is no use the Opposition pretending that someone in the C.O.I. is acting with political bias when all they are really trying to do is to convince the country that there should be no information at all, and that we should all live in a land of darkness in which they hope they may be able one day to smuggle themselves back into power.
§ 8.14 p.m.
§ Mr. David Renton (Huntingdon)
The complacency of the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) ill-becomes an hon. Member speaking in Committee of 983 Supply, when it is his duty to scrutinise public accounts with a view to seeing that public money is being properly spent. We have been told in the annual report of the C.O.I. that the Office has two main purposes—first, to co-ordinate the work of the Information Services of various Government Departments; and, second, to use the official jargon,to secure a wider and clearer apprehension of the national economic task, and the purposive direction of the national energies towards its completion.When we come to look in detail at the various tasks which the C.O.I. has taken upon itself, either on its own initiative or on behalf of various Departments, we find that the purposes for which it exists are being filled in a rather nebulous way. I suggest to the Lord President that he should not listen to the complacent advice given him by the hon. Member for Aston, but should scrutinise carefully the report, and the Estimates which followed it, with a view to seeing where economies can be made. I would like to suggest some economies which can be made, and to point out some of the things which were done and which certainly were not necessary. In the first place, I suggest that the purpose of the C.O.I. is not merely to publish things which may be rather interesting or amusing. On page 17 of the report, there is a list of films which have been completed and which make up 25 per cent. of the net expenditure of the Office, quite apart from the Stationery Office.
Under the heading "National Life and Progress" there is a film, made by the Economic Information Unit, called "Pop goes the Weasel." The subject of it is how revenue from direct taxation is spent. It would be most interesting to know how a film about the way in which our enormous direct taxation is spent will help economic recovery. It sounds like an attempt to pardon the unpardonable. I have not seen the film, but—
§ Mr. H. Morrison
Is the hon. Gentleman making his rather sweeping criticisms solely on the grounds of the title of the film?
§ Mr. Renton
Presumably the right hon. Gentleman will agree that the title is accurate. I have not been spending, or perhaps wasting, my time in seeing a lot of these films, but if their titles 984 are accurate my comments are perfectly fair. The right hon. Gentleman will see that further down the page there is a list of films with an asterisk against them, which denotes that they were made primarily for showing overseas. What use is it to this country that overseas audiences should see films on farming in South-East England, or the job of a country policeman in Scotland? Obviously, these films are unnecessary, and money should not have been spent on them. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Hon. Members opposite should show a sense of proportion. Money is vitally needed for health services, and it may not be forthcoming unless we can make economies in other directions.
On page 18 we see, under the heading "National Progress," a film called "All eyes on Britain," a survey of recent British achievements. A film on this subject was not sent overseas, but I ask what is the use of making a film of our own achievements for home consumption? What is the use of patting ourselves on the back with the aid of the C.O.I.? Then there was an unusual and rather longer film, a two and a half reel film, entitled "The Health Services." I assume, from that title, that the film extolled the virtues of our National Health Service. We have learned from experience that our people do not require any encouragement in the use of that Service. Indeed, we know that they may have to be slightly discouraged.
When we turn to page 19 we find, under the heading "The Life of the Commonwealth," that there have been four excellent films about the Colonies. I have no doubt they are most interesting and admirable, and they may have a highly educational value, but they are sponsored not by the Central Office of Information but by the Colonial Office. Further, they are for showing at home. Is it really necessary that films should be produced in this country, in addition to the many excellent documentary films produced by private distributors, showing what life is like in the Colonies. Under the heading of "Instructional Films," which are not for general distribution but apparently for particular bodies, there is a film about the surface dressing of roads by tar and one entitled "Precise measurement for Engineers." Our roads have been pretty good roads for a good many years.
§ Mr. Renton
To dress the roads with tar is something which is well understood, and I should have thought it was quite an abuse of the principle of having a Central Office of Information, if we must have one, that it should produce films of that kind.
To my mind, the most extraordinary thing is a film sponsored by the Ministry of Food entitled "How to make Pickles." I suppose a film on that subject should be sponsored by the Government because they would know better than anyone perhaps how to make pickles. We have to ask ourselves whether it is part of the welfare of the State that we should spend public money teaching people how to run their homes. On page 20 there is another film, the title of which is "Good Taste in Furnishing a Home." Good taste varies. There is no absolute standard, and I hope that this film does not try to establish one. We have to ask ourselves, bearing in mind the state of our finances and the development of our society, is it necessary? And the answer to this question, as to all the others, is obviously that it is not necessary, and a lot of public money could be saved if these films were not produced.
I should like to make a few remarks on the pamphlet about the Economic Survey. This also was not necessary. It is a most interesting little pamphlet, and I have learned a certain amount from it. It was obviously very expensive to produce: it is highly illustrated; and there are lots of good diagrams and cartoons by eminent cartoonists. One of the cartoons shows a gentleman walking a tight rope, another an official followed by a bull and a third, an egg divided into four different parts. The assumption underlying this pamphlet is that the ungodly can be made better people if they are made to read the Bible and the Prayer Book. Perhaps that can be done if they buy the Bible and the Prayer Book.
People are being asked to pay 6d. for this little book, but how many of the people who will buy it are people needing to be cured by the lessons which this book prescribes? If they are serious students, the Economic Survey itself should suffice, but for the generality of mankind, whom the Chancellor of the Exchequer is continually exhorting to greater efforts, I 986 should have thought the reports of his own speeches over the B.B.C. and in the newspapers on both sides would have sufficed. I might add that we on this side of the House follow the Chancellor of the Exchequer in exhorting supporters of hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ Mr. Scollan (Renfrew, Western)
I gather the arguments produced by the hon. Gentleman against the Central Office of Information suggest the idea that the booklet, from which he quoted, purports to ask the people to read the Bible, and I understood the hon. Gentleman to say that the Economic Survey will be far more fitted to the occasion than the Bible. Is that correct?
§ Mr. Renton
The hon. Gentleman's question reveals such a remarkable confusion of thought that I think it would be for the convenience of the Committee if I explain the earlier parts of my speech to him behind the Speaker's Chair. I will willingly do so.
§ Mr. Renton
When one looks at the possible purposes of this little Economic Survey one wonders whether it will persuade our people to further efforts. There are other ways of doing that, such as arranging direct or indirect taxation reliefs so that there are material incentives. It may be that the purpose of it partly is to prove that what hon. Gentlemen in the Party opposite were saying for 30 years before they came into power has now somewhat to be amended. The main lesson of this is one which has already been declared on posters all over the country—that we must work or want. Everything that is said in this booklet leads to one simple conception—it will be found in each chapter. Surely this expensively published book is unnecessary. If the Government have made a loss it is lamentable from the point of view of the taxpayer; if the Government have made a profit, that is a very nice result for a speculative venture, but was it necessary to speculate?
In conclusion, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman how exactly is the work of the Central Office of Information co-ordinated with that of the public relations officers of the various Departments? It is obvious from the activities of these 987 public relations officers that they, too, cost a very great deal each in their little Department. Liaison itself is often a costly item of administration, and, having this Central Office of Information and the public relations officers, liaison between them obviously must be necessary. I suggest that on balance it would be better to do without the Central Office of Information, and the right hon. Gentleman will be better without his liaison.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Driberg (Maldon)
The speeches in this Debate so far have been quite clearly demarcated. There was the strictly factual speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) and the strictly frivolous speeches that we have had from hon. Members opposite. The first of them—
§ Mr. Renton
On a point of Order. The hon. Member's idea of what is frivolous and my own idea may vary very considerably, but as he has accused me of making a frivolous speech I must say that had I made a frivolous speech you, Mr. Butcher, would presumably have ruled me out of Order. It is therefore an improper suggestion on the part of the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) to describe my speech as frivolous.
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. Butcher)
The hon. Member is responsible for any statements that he may make.
§ Mr. Driberg
In the course of my few years in Parliament I have never tried to interrupt someone else on a bogus point of Order. I quite realise that some hon. Members opposite have to fall back upon that sort of thing, especially if they do not know the meanings of simple English words like "frivolous." The speech of the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton) was not irrelevant, but the word "frivolous" does not mean irrelevant. It means that the speech was simply not up to the level of the subject. I shall proceed in due course, if I am not interrupted by too many bogus points of Order, to say precisely why, and in what respects, that speech fell short of the gravitas that we are trying to attain.
First we had the familiar caperings of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bournemouth (Mr. Bracken), which are 988 always extremely enjoyable, and his jokes about the true "Tale of the Tub" and the misunderstanding about Jonathan Swift. I would just venture to point out to the right hon. Gentleman that that is a very old kind of joke. That is the kind of mistake that civil servants have been making for many years, even before there was a Central Office of Information. I well remember some few years ago, when that excellent light entertainment "The Beggar's Opera" was produced in the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, by the late Sir Nigel Playfair, in the days, I think, of Tory misrule, that the Inland Revenue tried very hard to get into touch with Mr. John Gay.
I was, incidentally, rather surprised at the right hon. Gentleman's effrontery, if I may use that word, in quoting that tribute by the Minister of State to the British Press, in view of the right hon. Gentleman's own grossly exaggerated, as I thought, and quite irresponsible recent attack on the British Press generally and on its accuracy. I personally take a much higher view of the British Press than did the right hon. Gentleman last week on the occasion to which I am referring. [Interruption.] Did the right hon. Gentleman wish to interrupt me? No? Very well; then I will turn to the other hon. Gentleman.
The hon. Member for Huntingdon sounded, I am perfectly prepared to grant, more serious than did the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bournemouth. Moreover, he made the perfectly proper initial approach—the duty that hon. Members have of examining expenditure, and so on and so forth; but then—and this is where I suggest, quite seriously, that I was using the word "frivolous" properly—the hon. Member went through the details of some of the films that have been made. The Lord President of the Council interrupted him, and the hon. Gentleman had to admit that he had not bothered to see the films whose production he was criticising: he had merely picked on a title that sounded rather facetious and could be made a joke of in this Committee. Then he went on to criticise other films. One film he criticised was concerned, I think he said, with direct taxation and what it is used for—the hon. Member may by all means interrupt.
§ Mr. Renton
I am not sure whether the criticism of the hon. Member for 989 Maldon of my remarks is directed to my use of the title or of the subject. I was complaining, obviously, not about the title but about the subject, referred to on page 17. I cannot see what the point was of showing to adult audiences how Government revenue from direct taxation was spent.
§ Mr. Driberg
I can assure the hon. Member that there is a very direct use for such a film, in this country at any rate. I had a letter a couple of weeks ago from a farmer in my constituency conveying to me a very old complaint, that many of his farm-workers, and other people in the neighbourhood who were now paying Income Tax, grumbled about it, regarded it as something just taken away from them by the Government and did not understand what it was used for and how it helped towards the national economy. He suggested that much more could and should be done in the way of simple illustrated advertisements or booklets like the popular guide to the Budget—and, he might have added, by way of films such as this, which could be shown in all parts of the country—to help people to understand exactly what happens to the direct and indirect taxes which all of us have to pay. It seems to me that it is an important indirect incentive to greater production if that can really be understood. We all know—hon. Members opposite as well as hon. Members on this side of the House have repeatedly told Chancellors in recent years—that no single item is such a drag on production as the Income Tax payable on overtime. That has to some extent been put right now—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I said "to some extent." I still think there is ample rom, and if hon. Members opposite disagree with that statement, there is all the more need still for the educational work which can be done by films such as that which the hon. Member was attacking.
The hon. Member went on to attack a film about the Health Service which is available for showing overseas. Has he not heard of the tremendous interest which there is now in the United States in our National Health Service?
§ Mr. Driberg
I am sorry if the hon. Member did not say so and if I am mis- 990 quoting him, but presumably, if it is made, it could be shown overseas. I do not see that that is really a very important distinction. Presumably the expenditure which the hon. Member was criticising was the expenditure incurred in making the film at all. I repeat my question to him: Does he not know about the tremendous interest which there is in our National Health Service in the United States? President Truman himself is trying to initiate some such service, though perhaps not on precisely the same lines. We know from people who have been lecturing in America recently, and from American visitors and journalists here, that there is no single aspect of life in this country in which the Americans are so keenly interested as the way in which the Health Service is working. Although I grant the hon. Member the debating-point that, no doubt this film (which I have not seen either) does not show the snags and the difficulties in the experimental stages of the Health Service, nevertheless surely it is fair that there should be a film showing the broad structure of the service, how it is paid for out of general taxation, and what its objects are.
§ Mr. Driberg
I should have said that it was strictly necessary if true and accurate information is necessary at all. I should have thought that this was one very important aspect of life about which information, both domestically and internationally, was of the greatest possible value.
The subject of information about the Health Service brings me to another point which was touched on by my hon. Friend the Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt), the question of alleged political bias in Government information, which so often worries hon. Members opposite. One pamphlet which was produced some months ago for distribution in America and elsewhere overseas has had a wide circulation. It has been translated into many languages. It is a pamphlet about the National Health Service and about our social security schemes in general. So far from there being any political bias in this pamphlet, so far from the people who prepared it trying to take any credit for the Labour Government, as they might well have done, they lean over backwards 991 to do the opposite thing and to be much more fair than they need have been to the party opposite. They state specifically in this pamphlet that the various social security services including the National Health Service, were all more or less agreed policies and agreed Measures, in the shaping of which all the political parties have played their part—which, of course, we who observed the Opposition voting solidly against the National Health Service Act know to be something of an exaggeration.
The most serious point, with which I want to conclude is this. I do not mind so much about the domestic side of it, although I think my hon. Friend the Member for Aston made a good case for those specialised campaigns and for the economy obviously effected by organising their publicity through a centralised office. Overseas, however, I am sure that there was never so great a need as there is now for genuine, comprehensive and accurate information about life in this country, about the way we run things, and about our outlook generally.
We are engaged in a great experiment in this country. I know that hon. Members opposite are critical of it when they are here, just as I know that, with a few exceptions, they are fair enough when they are abroad to pay tribute to what is being done by this people, under the leadership of this Government, towards recovery. It is not propaganda material for an unwilling market that we are producing; on the contrary, I understand that all the magazines produced by the European Section of the Central Office of Information, or almost all of them, are sold, and not given away, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bournemouth suggested in an interruption. They are sold and they are appreciated by those who buy them.
Anybody who has been around the world, to the Western hemisphere or to Eastern Europe, and has been into British Institutes or British Libraries, as I have been in the last few years—in Mexico City, in Belgrade and in many other capital cities—and has seen in each place literally thousands of students, young men and women, thronging those libraries daily to read the publications they can see there—some of them newspapers, as the right hon. Gentleman said, 992 but also the publications of the Central Office of Information and the various official data available—anybody who has seen that, will realise how true it is that there is a real, effective, continuing demand for what is supplied by this Office.
I believe that, although we should indeed see that the money is spent economically and used to the best purpose, in the main the Central Office of Information is doing a first-rate job and that it is an essential instrument in the recovery of the nation.
§ 8.44 p.m.
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre (New Forest and Christchurch)
We have had two speeches from hon. Members opposite. The last one was slightly pathetic—
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre
The former was argumentative. The hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) based his case on abusing what we had said, or what he alleged we had said, and then went on, with one of these newspaper article effects, into the number of towns he had visited in which British propaganda had been useful to him. But, quite honestly, there is only one thing which we are asked to try to decide tonight, and that is, what is the office and purpose for which Government propaganda should be liable, and does it effect its job? I am almost prepared to accept that, even if I disagreed with everything the Central Office of Informtaion put out, even if I thought it all biased, I would tolerate it, if it did what it set out to do. But if it neither achieved what the hon. Member for Maldon described as the great experiment—how the information is being sent everywhere, the usual claptrap—
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre
Certainly. If the hon. Gentleman wished for confirmation of that, he had only to listen to what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said during the last few days. That should be sufficient confirmation even for him, although I admit that it is always a pleasure to know whether the fellow travellers have bought their tickets or not.
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre
To go back to the argument with which I started, what is the Central Office of Information supposed to do? Is it supposed to represent the Government, and, if so, on what basis should it accept that the Government are right? I admit that those are difficult questions because, if the Central Office of Information is to do anything at all, it has, presumably, to represent what the Government say. But if it is to do that, then it must be quite certain that what it represents is more or less in accord with the wishes of the country. That seems to me to be a very simple case. If it puts out something which is not representing the wishes of the country, or, alternatively, something which is purely biased, then it does wrong, and I think that we should look at what the Government have achieved in that direction.
If one took that case, it would be very difficult to defend the actions of the Central Office of Information. Why, for example, has the pamphlet "Labour Believes in Britain" been circulated in America under the auspices of the Foreign Office? That seems to me the most extraordinary thing to happen. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] Is it really reasonable for a Government agency in America to circulate the political doctrine of a political party? I am further assured that in this case the distributing agency, that is, the British Council, have let it be known throughout America that they will supply in bulk as many copies as are required.
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre
It seems a most extraordinary thing for the Government, through the agency they command as the controllers of this country, to disseminate their own political propaganda. This is no case of "The Budget and Your Pocket," to which I will refer in a moment, but of something, which is to be put to the country next year or when the General Election takes place, being put out deliberately.
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre
Not at all. If the Industrial Charter—I think that is what the hon. Member was referring to—was put out by the official agency of the Government, was supplied in limitless numbers according to the requirements of the customers, as is happening in the case of "Labour Believes in Britain," I should never have had any complaint. The case of "Labour Believes in Britain" is quite different. These documents are supplied and are pumped out by the Government through their agency in America. I have not seen or heard of a single case of Tory propaganda being made available through the British Information Service; if any hon. Member opposite cares to contradict me I shall be interested to hear—
§ Mr. Driberg rose—
§ Mr. Driberg
The hon. and gallant Member has challenged this side of the Committee. Perhaps I may reply to him. When I was last in New York I saw large, quantities of the Industrial Charter in the British Information Service office, available for distribution in exactly the same way as this document to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman is referring. What is more, the British Information Services in America would certainly distribute the whole general policy of the Conservative Party—if there were one.
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre
I do not think the hon. Gentleman has in the least answered the point that I was trying to make. [Laughter.] If hon. Members opposite are satisfied, then that is all right.
Now I will come to the document entitled "The Budget and your Pocket"—another document which has been produced at our expense and which, no doubt, pleases hon. Members opposite. It is a document which puts forward the pure Crippsian doctrine, but it does nothing in any of its pages to try to meet the very many criticisms of the Budget that have been made during the many Budget Debates which we have had. In this document there is a strip cartoon. I cannot admit that it is as good as some of 995 those appearing in either the "Daily Herald" or the "Daily Express." When one comes to the bottom of it, it merely leaves a feeling of hopelessness. It is entitled "Story without an ending." What is the good of that to a country like ours, faced with our present day problems—to publish a pamphlet at our expense entitled "Story without an ending"? I shall not make any of the obvious cracks that are possible.
Then this document goes on to say on page 3:Why are we no better off?That is a nice thing to put out at our expense. It goes on to say that one of the reasons is that during this period, while production has been increasing we have got toprovide the extra exports needed to pay for imports.That is a simple statement, but it makes no suggestion of how many of our exports are being wasted; neither does it say that we are not securing those goods or the money required to purchase elsewhere in return for everything that we are sending abroad at present. There is not one mention of it.
On page 4 of this document we find these words:So we must do with rather less subsidy per lb. on some foods"—and then it states:meat, cheese, butter and margarine.I put it to hon. Members opposite that if there are four foods that really count, those are the four. Those are the four key foods in the diet of this country. To put out a statement which merely glosses it over, is purely ridiculous and merely destroys the whole point of the arguments that have been put—
§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Glenvil Hall)
Would the hon. and gallant Gentleman prefer the document to say "on all foods," when that would be incorrect?
§ Colonel Crosthwaite - Eyre
No, Certainly not. Surely the right hon. Gentleman has argued with me often enough to know that when I say something I mean it. The pamphlet says, "some foods"; would it not have been more honest to say "all the staple foods"? That would have been some- 996 thing which would have made sense. Here again, however, the Government are not prepared to face up to an issue of that nature.
In conclusion, I shall give one further example from this pamphlet, and it is on page 13. This is a further example of what the Central Office of Information think it is fair to put out on behalf of the whole country. There is some talk about taxation and what may happen as a result of taking from some and giving to others, and about the bottom of the page it says this means we have such good thingsas a good Police Force and good roads.I ask hon. Members on both sides of the Committee to recognise that that is a very poor statement with which to sum up arguments when they are dealing with many criticisms made not only from this side of the House but also from hon. Members opposite. If we are to allow our Central Office of Information to put out such statements, for which we all pay, and for which presumably we are all responsible, and which will consist of such inaccuracies and such mistakes, indeed I can only hope that this office will be wound up at the earliest opportunity.
§ 8.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Keeling (Twickenham)
As was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Mr. Bracken) who opened this Debate, the question whether we are to retain or abolish the Central Office of Information cuts to some extent across Party lines. We saw that in the Debate a year ago. I am not one of those, if there are any such, who think it unnecessary to have Government information services. It is certainly no part of Conservative policy to keep the people in darkness, as was suggested by the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt). The record of the Conservative Party in introducing Education Bills during the last 100 years proves that that suggestion is ridiculous. I personally accept also the necessity for a Central Office of Information for limited purposes, whether as an adjunct of the Stationery Office, as my right hon. Friend suggested, or not. I would define those purposes as being to co-ordinate and to carry out technical services.
997 I want, however, to make several important provisos to that which will reduce any difference of opinion between my right hon. Friend and myself to somewhat small proportions. The first proviso I make is this: that no amount of publicity or propaganda can make up for the lack of a courageous policy. It is no good spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on recruiting propaganda if the conditions of service in the fighting Services are not made attractive.
The second proviso is that the scale and the size of the Central Office of Information must not be excessive, and it must not extend its activities into fields where they really are unnecessary. As my right hon. Friend pointed out, the White Paper which was issued only a day or two ago shows that the total Government expenditure on publicity in one form or another is no less than £16 million. I do not think that includes overheads; it certainly does not include the publicity expenditure of the nationalised industries. If we add those we shall probably get a total of nearly £20 million. I suggest that there is a grave danger that when the news and comments provided by the Press and the radio, to say nothing of schools, professional organisations and political parties, are supplemented by Government posters, advertisements, exhibitions, films, and factory lectures, then the enormous sums spent will merely give the public indigestion. The Government have recognised this themselves. The Lord President a year ago said:We have to keep an eye on this expenditure to see that it does not run away with itself, but I think it is right, and I shall not complain if the House carefully scrutinises and examines the expenditure to see that we are not wasteful."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th May. 1948; Vol. 450, c. 2317.]The Government have now appointed, not before it is time, a committee of inquiry into this expenditure. I hope that it will apply the test which was laid down by the hon. Member for Aston, "What result do we get for it all?"
My right hon. Friend gave some examples of expenditure which he thought was excessive. I should like to give two or three more. We are spending £750,000 on films, and very little money is earned by them. We have no less than 150 vans touring the country showing 998 films free, and some of them seem to me to have very little sense. I saw a film the other day called "What a Life," on which £9,000 of the taxpayers' money was spent with no return whatever. The scene opens in a public house, where everybody decides that things are very bad indeed. Two of the people are so depressed that they decide to kill themselves. They get into a boat, row out, shake hands, and dive into the sea. Then they find that there are only three feet of water, and so they go back to the "pub."
§ Mr. Keeling
When somebody was asked what was the purpose of this film, his reply was that it was intended to show that things were not as bad as they seemed. I rather think that the Lord President himself saw that film, and I should like to ask him whether he thinks that film was worth £9,000 of the taxpayers' money.
We spend £100,000 on what is called a social survey, but what is commonly known as "snooping." The figures in the annual report of the C.O.I. show that the cost was £1 per person snooped. Not per snooper: £1 per person snooped. I will read what the report says:In the course of the year's work, surveys were made for ten Departments, for which it was necessary to interview about 36 different samples of the population from time to time. About 80,000 people helped with these inquiries in some way or another. … The total cost of those surveys was £83,245.The cost therefore worked out at over £1 per person snooped. Since then the expenditure has gone up to £100,000, but we are not told whether the cost per person snooped is the same or not.
The next proviso which I want to make to the continuation of C.O.I. is this: There seems grave reason to doubt whether some of the Government publicity is effective. I saw a statement in the Press, which has not been denied, that in the opinion of C.O.I. itself only 18 per cent. of the population understand the why and the wherefore of the economic situation. Two years ago, the Government brought out a popular edition of the Economic Survey of 1947. They called this "Battle for Output." The wording was the same, but it had a pictorial cover and a number of diagrams to help the reader to understand it. The 999 Prime Minister gave it a good send-off when he said, "It is in simple language and I am sure the public will read and understand it." But the organisation called, "Mass Observation" put this statement of the Prime Minister to the test, and the results which they found were very different. I quote a few sentences from what their report says:We selected a few words in the White Paper and we asked people what they understood them to mean. We had intended to ask equal proportions of men and women, but it was soon clear that few women would stay the course. Many could not understand the words at all. 'My husband knows about them things; I leave it all to him.' So we concentrated on the all-knowing male.They go on to say:'Flexible' scored highest for successful interpretation. It is a word commonly used in industry. When we came to 'formulate' it was given the following meanings: 'Speed up'; 'get together'; 'first get going'; 'Does it mean make a circle?'When they asked what the word "conception" was understood to mean, they got these answers—"The Government's personal view"; "Getting people into action"; "Is it the end?"; and, finally, "A fellow of my standing does not understand these words." The report goes on to deal not with words but with sentences.
§ Mr. Driberg
I think that the hon. Gentleman said that he was dealing with production in 1947? If that is in Order—which I hope it is—may I point out to him that it was the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) and myself, and one or two other hon. Members, who pressed precisely these Mass Observation criticisms on the Government, with the result that this year's reports on production are much better and simpler?
§ Mr. Mitchison (Kettering)
On a point of Order. How often are we to have discussions on what is happening not on this Vote but in 1947?
§ Mr. Keeling
I shall not spend much longer on this, but it is part of my chain of argument, as hon. Members will see in a moment. The report says:Semi-paralysis was caused by the sentence: 'The objectives of this Paper embody the Government's determination to put first things first.'1000A craftsman aged 31 said: 'It probably means the Government wants to run all industries instead of being run privately.'A craftsman aged 35 said: 'It means the production of machines for making machines taking first priority.'A labourer aged 27 said: 'It is saying that they're going to fetch things up to a standard or living what we were used to before the war.'A labourer aged 30 said: 'Sort of conscription.'I will give only one more sentence from this popular edition of the White Paper:A democratic Government must therefore conduct its economic planning in a manner which preserves the maximum possible freedom of choice to the individual citizen.The report says that typical interpretations of this sentence were:I should imagine the Government wants the working-class people to get every benefit that's going.Another one was:Government should be all out for the working-classes.or:It's to get the choice of people, to get to know whether they are doing right or wrong.And finally:Can't make head or tail of it.The conclusion of this report was that the White Paper as written was incapable or correctly influencing most of the population to any significant degree. The Government, as the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) has pointed out, took notice of this Mass Observation report, and they commissioned Sir Ernest Gowers to write a book on plain English for the guidance of officials. I want, if the Committee will bear with me, to make some very short quotations from what he said. He said:The basic fault is a tendency to say what one has to say in as complicated a way as possible.He gave to that tendency the name "pudder." He got the word, I think, from Ivor Brown. He then wrote:Why do so many writers prefer pudder to simplicity? It seems to be a morbid condition contracted in early manhood. Children show no signs of it. Here, for example, is the response of a child of ten"—and he guarantees the genuineness of this—to an invitation to write an essay on the cow.'The cow is a mammal.… At the back it has a tail on which hangs a brush. With 1001 this it sends the flies away so that they do not fall into the milk. The head is for the purpose of growing horns and so that the mouth can be somewhere. The horns are to butt with, and the mouth is to moo with.'
§ Mr. Keeling
I do not think the hon. and learned Gentleman is following my argument. The essay of this child goes on:Under the cow hangs the milk. It is arranged for milking. When people milk, the milk comes and there is never an end to the supply. How the cow does it I have not yet realised, but it makes more and more. … The man cow is called an ox. It is not a mammal.From all that Sir Ernest Gowers draws this conclusion:The writer had something to say and said it as clearly as he could. … But why do we write, when we are ten, 'so that the mouth can be somewhere' and … when we are 30, in order to ensure that the mouth may be appropriately positioned environmentally'?I freely admit—and now I come to the hon. Member for Maldon—that there has been an improvement. I have noticed a very distinct improvement in this pamphlet, "Productivity Pays," which might be described as the 1949 edition of "The Battle For Output." But the greater simplicity of this pamphlet is largely cancelled out by the title on the cover—"Productivity." In the words of the junior Burgess the Member for Oxford University (Sir A. Herbert), "Golly, what a word." How many people understand it? On the second page it is said:It is not quite the same as production.But as most people understand the words "greater production," and I am perfectly certain very few people indeed understand the meaning of the word "productivity," why on earth could not the C.O.I. use as the title the words "Greater Production," if they could not think of any more arresting phrase? I have one other criticism of these Government pamphlets, and that is that they are much too long. I am quite sure that very few people read them through, and I am sorry to see that "Target" has increased its size from four pages to eight.
My last and much the most important proviso about the continuance of C.O.I. is on the question of bias, to which the hon. Member for Maldon referred. The 1002 Lord President of the Council said he was very anxious that these information services should be impartial, and he also said that if Members found any C.O.I. films engaging in propaganda for the Government he would look into it. I would interject here it seems reasonable that the Socialist Party, with its resources swollen since the repeal of the Trades Disputes Act, should pay for its own propaganda. I accept the Lord President's assurance and go further. I will say that while a year ago there were a good many complaints that C.O.I. was being used to further party ends, there has been some improvement.
There is, however, still cause for complaint. The Home Affairs Survey for 26th April, which refers to the meat shortage, says:Present hardships are being borne as an insurance for future prosperity.It would surely be more true and not more tendentious to say that present hardships are resented and brought about by the Government's mismanagement.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
Is the hon. Member seriously advocating that kind of partisan political propaganda at the taxpayers' expense?
§ Mr. Keeling
Not at all. Quite the contrary. But I am asserting that the statement "Present hardships" in the matter of meat "are being borne as an insurance for future prosperity" is something less than the truth. If the Lord President does not like that quotation, let me give him one from the issue of 10th May, which says:The case of public ownership of the gas industry rests on three propositions.I need not quote the three propositions. The point is that the survey is entirely silent about the case against public ownership. As my right hon. Friend said, the C.O.I. staff owe allegiance only to the State. But whichever party is in power, there always will be a tendency to use publicity machinery for party propaganda, and we must firmly resist that because it is the first step to dictatorship.
How shall we avoid it? Believing in the Lord President's sincerity, I put forward two alternative methods: The first way is to avoid Government propaganda altogether about issues which are the subject of controversy between the parties. If the vast mass of propaganda 1003 suggests, as it does—although it does not state—that the Government have been successful in struggling against difficulties which they did not create there is at once aroused a suspicion of party bias, because many of us think that the Government have aggravated those difficulties by their extravagance and by diverting national effort into reckless and wanton schemes of nationalisation. There is a C.O.I. poster—I do not know whether it is still up—which says "Mining is a good job—under nationalisation." Would the Labour Party like the C.O.I., under a Conservative Government, to put up a poster saying, "Steel is a good job—under private enterprise"? I say that these controversial issues ought to be avoided, and left to Ministers in the House, on the platform and on the air—and the Lord President, for one, certainly does that sort of thing very well.
But supposing that the Government do not accept that suggestion, that they do not think it is practicable, I make this alternative suggestion: Before they put out anything dealing with controversial issues, why not give all the political parties a day or two in which to take exception to anything which they think shows party bias? Of course, there would be disputes, but in the case of a dispute the Government can take responsibility. They will have to make the decision, and the matter could be raised on the Floor of the House if that was thought desirable. If the Government do not adopt one of these alternatives they will continue to lay themselves open to the charge of using taxpayers' money to further party causes.
§ Mr. Driberg
Would the hon. Gentleman agree that the C.O.I. poster about nationalisation, to which he has objected, was shown only after the Parliamentary Debates had concluded and the matter was thus accepted public policy, and after various leading Conservative spokesmen had indicated that they would not attempt to denationalise the mines if the Conservative Party were returned to power?
§ Mr. Keeling
I do not think that that makes the slightest difference, nor does it detract from my statement. It does not alter my contention that such posters should not be used for what is still a matter of Party controversy. I want to 1004 leave the Lord President plenty of time, so I sum up what I have said in these words—Government publicity is too expansive and too expensive; it is not always effective; and sometimes it is open to a charge of party bias.
§ 9.25 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Morrison)
I am very glad that the Opposition this year decided once more to have a Debate on the Central Office of Information and the Economic Information Unit. It is right that that should be so and that the House should keep a critical eye on all of these services. Indeed, I am very sorry it did not prove practicable to have a whole day on the subject, and another time I should like that to be the case, because I think it is worth while. It is the case that all politicians disagree about matters of publicity. Nobody knows that better than the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bournemouth (Mr. Bracken), because he and I have heard many discussions in very high quarters about the effectiveness of certain publicity methods.
The truth is that nearly all politicians have views about it, and often they are strong views which they have no hesitation in expressing. They often disagree on the subject, and consequently any public official, or for that matter any party official, who has anything to do with publicity, is bound to be on a stony road and he will get pushed about as he goes along. I say that in no sense of complaint or umbrage. It is a free country, and everyone is entitled to have his own views on this complex and difficult business of publicity and the effort to give people information that will help them to come to a proper and right conclusion.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling) has quarrelled about the word "productivity." I would have thought the general run of our people would know what that word meant. I quite agree that if the officials of the Social Survey went around they might find some curious answers when people are asked what the word "productivity" means. It is a good word and has been used by such authorities as Coleridge and Lecky, the historian, who actually wrote "This is the first character of all life—productivity." While Lecky wrote that, J. H. Green and Coleridge 1005 used the terms. When I was a Socialist youth there were many working-class youths who used to read Lecky. I never read him myself, but I have met a lot of people who thought it worth while to read him.
§ Mr. Morrison
That is a good reason why he should be read just as good Socialist writers like myself should also be read. I would be the last person to advise anyone to refuse to read a book because it was written by a Tory M.P., although I would warn them it was not, of necessity, a conclusive recommendation.
The right hon. Member for Bournemouth (Mr. Bracken), in opening the Debate, said that he was not seeking to be controversial in the party sense of the term. He succeeded in being a little controversial later on, whether in the party sense or not I would not like to say. I was glad that he specifically said that he wished to make no criticisms or charges of impropriety against officers of the Central Office of Information. There was an unfortunate incident in a Sunday paper some time ago that had better not have happened, and probably will not happen again. I am glad of that. It suited his book, because he promptly proceeded to knock the results of the Central Office of Information about, and those of the Economic Information Unit, and to blame them on to some politicians whom he called planners.
The right hon. Gentleman has an aversion to planners. He does not like planners. I would expect that of him. He is not a Conservative. He is certainly not a Socialist or a Liberal. He is an anti-planner. He, like his friend, Lord Beaverbrook, represents the capitalist version of the philosophy of anarchy. He is against anything in the way of order, plan, system or co-ordination. They are all foreign to his mind. As a matter of fact, that is illustrated by the fact that when he was Minister of Information, instead of bucking up his staff and making the Department feel pleased, he went about boasting that the M.O.I. was about the worst thing that had ever happened. The right hon. Gentleman went about spreading alarm and despondency throughout that Department, and it has taken us a long time to get over it
1006 The right hon. Gentleman said that he did not believe that the Ministry of Information or any Government information bureau served any useful purpose in peace time. As a matter of fact, we are running the Central Office of Information much more economically than he ran the Ministry of Information, and with less manpower. That point does raise the essence of the argument. There have been some other hon. Members, including the Liberal National Member who spoke, who have taken the view that the whole Government information service of any kind ought to be terminated and abolished. I would point out that the right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) spoke last year and did not take that view. He had his criticisms, it is true, but he held the view that in principle the service was legitimate and right, and that it might be the duty of a Government to disseminate information about certain matters of fact and of difficulty.
§ Mr. Morrison
I have not the quotation by me but I do not think that I am misrepresenting the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Macmillan
It is a misrepresentation, but what I said, if I remember aright—[Laughter.] I am going to quote it from memory.
§ Mr. Macmillan
If the right hon. Member was preparing to wind up the Debate and to refer to what I said last year, he might have provided himself with the quotation. What I said was that I thought it was proper for a Government to disseminate information on factual matters such as social services, the rights and liberties which were made available under those services, and new possibilities made available to the citizen. That is a wholly different matter from disseminating matter of a propaganda character.
§ Mr. Morrison
I shall try very hard not to refer to the right hon. Member again, as I may lose a material part of my time.
§ Mr. Morrison
There is not a great deal between us on what the right hon. 1007 Gentleman says he said and what I said he said; certainly nothing to quarrel about. I take the view that in the modern complexities of Government—and the right hon. Gentleman has just taken it—within a certain sphere it is not only the right but it is the duty of the Government to convey information. I believe that it is the right and the duty of the Government not only to do it in respect of the social services but to do it in respect of economic education. I say with absolute earnestness and sincerity that if serious economic education into the economic facts of life and the difficulties through which the country has passed during the transition had not been undertaken by the Economic Information Unit and the Central Office of Information, I believe that the welfare of our country would have been gravely damaged as a consequence. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I am entitled to my opinion, and that is my belief.
§ Mr. Morrison
There have been the complex economic situation, the balance of payments, the dollar shortage, imports and exports, and the need for production. It is no good assuming that the country was educated in a first-class manner at the beginning to understand these things, and if the country had not understood them the conduct of the average citizen would have been materially different from what it has been. We have got through to a great extent precisely because of the good conduct of the citizen.—[An HON. MEMBER: "They should vote Tory."] I am on a perfectly serious point. Why does the hon. Member want to drag it down into the political sphere in that way?
I may be right or wrong, but I am arguing earnestly on actual experience and in the light of what the Social Survey reveals. The Social Survey is a serious attempt to keep the Government informed as to what people's thoughts are and how their minds are moving in respect of current matters on which the co-operation of the people is vital. It is all very well to say that it is a pound a snoop, as the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling) said. A pound a snoop is cheaper than private enterprise in this sphere, with one exception which uses 1008 voluntary people. As a whole it is materially cheaper than private enterprise, and it is not a pound a snoop because in addition to the interviews a lot of other things have to be done and paid for [Interruption.] I hope we are not going to have one of those finishes. I want to be serious about this. I may be right or wrong, but I want to be serious.
The Social Survey revealed an alarming lack of knowledge earlier on about the matters to which I referred. There is nothing surprising about that. I am not sure what percentage of hon. Members could have got through an examination about some of the economic complexities upon which they are now well informed. I do not say that in any partisan spirit. Indeed, heaven knows how many very prominent people would have come through. It was vital to educate the nation about the facts of these matters in order that the nation should consciously co-operate to the end we have in view. This process of economic education has paid the nation handsomely. That is my belief. If it had not been for this we might have had more industrial disputes, we might have had less industrial effort and we might have had less co-operation to common economic ends than we have had.
It is not only I who say this, but two distinguished Americans say it too. Remember, these would not be biased because, as anybody who knows the United States and the attitude of Congress would agree. They are profoundly suspicious, even more than the right hon. Member for Bournemouth—
§ Mr. Bracken indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Morrison
—profoundly antagonistic and suspicious in principle of all Government information activities. This is what was said by Mr. Finletter in some evidence he gave before the Senate committee:The Treasury itself, under Sir Stafford Cripps, is carrying on a vigorous campaign and a very effective campaign of information to the British people not only about the Marshall Plan but about the whole economy of Britain. Britain is plastered with posters pointing out the economic facts of life. There are exhibits in the subways. There are movies, and very good movies, too, showing what the problems are, some of them in Walt Disney form, and so forth. Extremely interesting.This is being brought to the people to the maximum extent possible.1009 He went on to say, being asked by Senator Wiley this question:You mean the facts delineated in your charts are given to the people in unvarnished language and not in the shape of propaganda?MR. FINLETTER: Yes, sir, I have no hesitation in saying that these facts are being given unvarnished and not in any attempt—as far as I can make out—no real political attempt to tell anything except the brutal facts. I think the attitude is that this is a peacetime battle of Britain and that the only way to get the people of Britain to win is to let them know what it is all about.They publish a White Paper, for example, and they popularise it and put out a pamphlet to explain in pictures and whatnot, what the White Paper has said.Not only has Mr. Finletter said that, but a still higher authority in the work of E.R.P., namely, Mr. Hoffman, the administrator in charge of the European Aid Administration, has said this in a public declaration:I thought I knew something about informational activities. I want to say that having spent the morning with the Economic Information Unit, having learned something of their plans to try and impress all the people of Great Britain with the importance of productivity, I think, to a certain extent, we in America are amateurs. In other words, when it comes to resourcefulness and ingenuity, I take off my hat to … his organisation.They are not gentlemen calculated to be biased in favour of this sort of thing, and I earnestly believe that they are right.
In testing the financial cost, I would ask the Committee to keep the following simple fact in mind, which I think is mathematically correct. Every increase in national productivity of 1 per cent. means £120 million in value added to the gross national output. The cost of the entire economic information campaign equals about 1d. in every £ of this sum. I do not claim that the economic information campaign is entirely responsible for the added national output, because the goodwill of our citizens in any case is valuable in that direction. However, I say that the economic information campaign which I started and which has been continued by my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made a material contribution to the improved national output by workpeople, managements and employers. I want to assert with absolute confidence that the nation has made a handsome profit out of it in the commercial sense, and the indirect benefit 1010 from the social stability which it has helped us to enjoy is almost measureless in advantage to our country and its wellbeing.
So much for that, which, if I may say so with great respect, I think meets the point. I am not quite sure whether the right hon. Gentleman has quite got the set-up of the organisation, but, in any case, it is best to make it clear. The Central Office of Information does not spend £16 million. That figure—it is slightly diminished in the present Estimates, I am glad to say—is the overall cost of the information services—C.O.I., Overseas Service, British Council, B.B.C. subventions for certain overseas affairs, and for all the Departments, including the Foreign Office, the Dominions Office and the Colonial Office. [An HON. MEMBER: "The P.R.O's."?] The P.R.O.'s are within the £16 million. It is a big sum. I would not say it is terrible because, taking it by and large, I think it pays us. It is certainly the duty of the Government to keep a close eye on this expenditure, and, above all, it is the duty of the House of Commons to keep an eye upon it, and upon all other expenditure too. Believe me, it is a welcome change to find the House of Commons urging a decrease in expenditure now and again instead of, as it more often does, urging substantial increases in public expenditure.
Therefore, the C.O.I. does not directly spend the bulk of this sum; it is the instrument of the spending Departments. It does, so to speak, for the spending Departments collectively something which it can do better in that co-operative way than they could do separately for themselves. That is the reason for it. The right hon. Gentleman said abolish it or make it a branch of the Stationery Office. But, in that case, why does he not want to abolish the Stationery Office? It is analogous. The Stationery Office is a common service instrument of Government and the reason why it exists is in order that Government printing may be done collectively and more economically and profitably than if each State Department did its own.
§ Mr. Morrison
No, it produces print, including much of the print of the Central Office of Information. Why the hon. and gallant Gentleman wants to waste my time by that foolish interruption, I do not know. I hope the Committee will excuse my getting cross, but I have not much time. The Stationery Office produces print, and it produces print because it can do it more economically and profitably than if every Government Department made its own printing arrangements or had its own printing press.
Therefore, this thing is in the same line of business. It is perfectly true that it is a wider business, but, if the Central Office of Information were abolished, it would mean that the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Labour, the Foreign Office, and all the rest of the Government Departments would each be making films and would each be producing magazines, and the cost would be infinitely more than if the C.O.I. did it. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] I do not know what the policy of the Conservative Party is, but if their policy is that they want no Government information or information services whatever, if the Conservative Party line is that the Government should give no information, then, of course, we can save all this money, but I warn the Committee that we would lose some other money and other advantages as a consequence. But that has not been declared by the Conservative Party so far to be their policy, and, indeed, it is inconsistent with what was said in the—
§ Mr. Morrison
No, I have no time. The right hon. Gentleman interrupted me at great length before, and I am not going to risk it again.
§ Mr. Morrison
If it is the policy of the Opposition that all Government information services should be abolished, what becomes of the argument which was heard 1012 at the time of the fuel crisis and at other times? Was not the scream in every Conservative newspaper "Tell the people more, let the people know"?
§ Mr. Morrison
How are we to let the people know if there are no Government information services? It is no good hon. Members opposite getting cross, because those were the demands. Then when we do it and take steps to inform the people, we are immediately denounced for having done it.
§ Mr. Bracken
The right hon. Gentleman really must remember that his colleague the Minister of Fuel and Power at the time said that there was no fuel crisis coming.
§ Mr. Morrison
I courteously gave way to the right hon. Gentleman, and, if I may say so, he has made an utterly irrelevant observation. The point that I was making was that there was a clamour among Conservative Members of Parliament and Conservative newspapers—I am not complaining about it, because I think they were right—to "tell the people; keep the people informed; give them the facts."
§ Mr. Morrison
Then when we spend money in doing so we are immediately charged with wasting public money and we are told that it ought to be stopped.
A point was raised by the right hon. Gentleman about an officer of the Central Office of Information who, as far as I can see, has slipped up about the copyright in Jonathan Swift. If I may say so, I think it is a "fair cop." I put my hands up, unless some later information comes whereupon I can be more defiant, but for the moment I retreat from the fray altogether upon that point. British Book Exports is a really valuable institution. It operates only in countries where normal commercial trade is impossible because of currency difficulties. Except for technical books no British copyright can be sold in Poland through commercial channels because of these exchange difficulties. The organisation of British Book Exports makes it possible to do business with Poland by various means of using 1013 currency appropriately. The British publishers know all about British book exports; when I say "British publishers" I mean the active men in the business. As a matter of fact, there is an advisory committee on which publishers sit, including an officer of the Publishers Association, and they all co-operate.
I am advised that if it had not been for British Book Exports, there would have been no British books sold and no copyright sold in part or in all of the period since the war in some of the most important countries of Central and Eastern Europe. The value of British books sold through the British Book Exports arrangement in 1947–48 in these countries was £70,000, and the copyrights sold were 250. That is not a bad piece of business for the community, and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that this counts far more than a little mistake that was made by the officer to whom reference has been made. I have got this information from the people who understand these things, and I think the Committee ought to know.
§ Mr. Morrison
Complaint was made about the Budget pamphlet. I have always taken the view that in matters of national taxation and expenditure it is a good thing that the people should know the facts and should understand how the money is raised, what it is spent on, and so on. I am bound to say that I do not think, myself, that the popular pamphlet on the Budget is biased. I think it is exceedingly impartial; but if there are points to which attention is drawn I will certainly have investigation made. I do not think it is biased but I do think it is profoundly important that people should know how the Budget is made up, what they do with their money and above all it is important that they know they have to find the money for the public services which they may seek.
It has been charged tonight that the pamphlet is biased, and the charge was also made at Question time earlier in the day. Here is a nice compliment from the "South Wales Echo": That is a Conservative evening paper, I believe, in South Wales—the evening edition of the "Western Mail"—and this is what it says: 1014Be he Socialist, Conservative or Liberal, he must admit that the information given in this official publication is without political Party bias and is a credit to our impartial Civil Service whose economic unit has compiled it.Indeed, the "Sunday Dispatch," a Sunday paper coming from a stable well known to hon. Members, says that:Our Socialist Government has just issued a pamphlet at 3d. a copy which at last tells its supporters the economic facts of life.If that is so, what are the Opposition grumbling about? Why these allegations of Socialist bias?
I think the Government have come through this business with flying colours. Indeed, the speeches of my hon. Friend the Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) and my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) have satisfactorily met many of the points that were made by hon. Members opposite—met them most successfully and conclusively, I thought. The hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton) was worried about certain films. As a matter of fact, the Film Department is doing very well and I think the showing of films overseas of the British way of life if a good thing. I am bound to say I was very much surprised that he should object to a film which fairly and carefully explained the British Colonial Empire to British citizens at home. I do not know what Lord Beaverbrook will say about him when he hears this criticism. Surely it is desirable that the British people at home shall be familiar with Colonial problems in the British Commonwealth. I think it was exceedingly narrow-minded of the hon. Member for Huntingdon and Little Englandism on his part that he should object to this procedure.
I am bound to say that I am not too sure about the film "What a Life." I saw it and I concede at once to the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling) that I do not think it was one of our best. I must point out that it was not a product of the Crown Film Unit; it was a product of private enterprise for which C.O.I. paid £9,000, although that is not much these days; if you ask J. Arthur Rank he will say it is small beer. On the whole the Crown Film Unit has done a first-class job and its films are most valuable. I thank the Committee for having this Debate and, if I may say so, I hope we shall have one again next year.
§ Mr. Bracken
I beg to move, "That Item Class VII, Vote 10, Central Office of Information, be reduced by £5."
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 104; Noes, 206.1017
|Division No. 146.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Harden, J. R. E.||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V. H.||Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)||Pickthorn, K.|
|Bolas, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells)||Harris, F. W. (Croydon, N.)||Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)|
|Bottom, A. C.||Harvey, Air-Comdre. A. V.||Renton, D.|
|Bowen, R.||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.||Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)|
|Bower, N.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Roberts, P. G. (Ecclesall)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Hogg, Hon. Q.||Robertson, Sir D. (Streatham)|
|Bracken, Rt. Hon. Brendan||Hope, Lord J.||Ropner, Col. L.|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G.||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt-Col. W.||Hulbert, Wing-Cdr. N. J.||Savory, Prof. D. L.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Jeffreys, General Sir G.||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n)||Keeling, E. H.||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Byers, Frank||Lambert, Hon. G.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Carton, E.||Langford-Holt, J.||Strauss, Henry (English Universities)|
|Chaften, C.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)|
|Clarke, Col. R. S.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Linstead, H. N.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow)||Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)||Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Thorp, Brigadier R. A. F.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Touche, G. C.|
|Dower, Col. A. V. G. (Penrith)||Maclean, F. H. R. (Lancaster)||Turton, R. H.|
|Dower, E. L. G. (Caithness)||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Drewe, C.||Macpherson, N. (Dumfries)||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Eccles, D. M.||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.||Wakefield, Sir W. W.|
|Elliot, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Walter||Manningham-Buller, R. E.||Walker-Smith, D.|
|Fleming, Sqn.-Ldr. E. L.||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)||Ward, Hon. G. R.|
|Fletcher, W. (Bury)||Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)||Webbe, Sir H. (Abbey)|
|Foster, J. G. (Northwich)||Molson, A. H. E.||Wheatley, Colonel M. J. (Dorset, E.)|
|Fraser, H. C. P. (Stone)||Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)||White, J. B. (Canterbury)|
|Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Williams, Gerald (Tunbridge)|
|Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M.||Neven-Spence, Sir B.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Gage, C.||Nicholson, G.||Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok)||Nield, B. (Chester)|
|George, Maj. Rt. Hn. G. Lloyd (P'ke)||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Gridley, Sir A.||Nutting, Anthony||Mr. Studholme and|
|Grimston, R. V.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Mr. Wingfield Digby.|
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Comyns, Dr. L.||Guy, W. H.|
|Albu, A. H.||Corbel, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N. W.)||Hairs, John E. (Wycombe)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Corlett, Dr. J.||Hale, Leslie|
|Alpass, J. H.||Cove, W. G.||Halt Rt. Hon. Glenvil|
|Austin, H. Lewis||Daggar, G.||Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Dairies, P.||Hannan, W. (Haryhill)|
|Ayles, W. H.||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Harrison, J.|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B.||Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S. W.)||Hastings, Dr. Somerville.|
|Bacon, Miss A.||Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Kingswinford)|
|Baird, J.||Deer, G.||Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)|
|Balfour, A.||Delargy, H. J.||Herbison, Miss M.|
|Barstow, P. G.||Diamond, J.||Hewitson, Capt. M.|
|Barton, C.||Donovan, T.||Hobson, C. R.|
|Battley, J. R.||Driberg, T. E. N.||Holman P.|
|Bechervaise, A. E.||Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)||Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)|
|Benson, G.||Dumpleton, C. W.||Horabin, T. L.|
|Berry, H.||Dye, S.||Houghton, A. L. N. D. (Sowerby)|
|Beswick, F.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Hoy, J.|
|Bang, G. H. C.||Edelman, M.||Hudson, J. H. (Eating, W.)|
|Binns, J.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. N. (Caerphilly)||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr)|
|Blackburn, A. R.||Evans, Albert (Islington, W.)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Blyton, W. R.||Ewart, R.||Hushes, H. D. (W'Iverh'pton, W.)|
|Boardman, H.||Farthing, W. J.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)|
|Bowden, Fig. Offr. H. W.||Fernyhough, E.||Irving, W. J. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Bramall, E. A.||Foot, M. M.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon G. A.|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Fraser, T. (Hamilton)||Janner, B.|
|Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Ganley, Mrs. C. S.||Jeger, G. (Winchester)|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Gibbins, J.||Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S. E.)|
|Bruce, Maj. D. W. T.||Gibson, C. W.||Jenkins, R. H.|
|Burke, W. A.||Glanville, J. E. (Consett)||Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)|
|Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)||Goodrich, H. E.||Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)|
|Chamberlain, R. A.||Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)||Keenan, W.|
|Champion, A. J.||Grenfell, D. R.||Kingdom, Sqn.-Ldr. E.|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Grey, C. F.||Kinley, J.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)||Lee, F. (Hulme)|
|Collick, P.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)||Leslie, J. R.|
|Collindridge, F.||Guest, Dr. L. Haden||Lewis, J. (Bolton)|
|Lipton, Ll.-Col M.||Peart, T. F.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Longden, F.||Popplewell, E.||Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)|
|Lyne, A. W.||Porter, E. (Warrington)||Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)|
|McAdam, W.||Porter, G. (Leeds)||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)|
|McGhee, H. G.||Proctor, W. T.||Thomas, John R. (Dover)|
|Mack, J. D.||Pursey, Comdr. H.||Thurlle, Ernest|
|McKay, J. (Wallsend)||Ranger, J.||Tolley, L.|
|Macpherson, T. (Romford)||Reid, T. (Swindon)||Ungoed-Thomas, L.|
|Mainwaring, W. H.||Robens, A.||Vernon, Maj. W. F.|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)||Viant, S. P.|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, H.)||Walker, G. H.|
|Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)||Ross, William (Kilmarnock)||Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)|
|Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Royle, C.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Mellish, R. J.||Sargood, R.||Watkins, T. E.|
|Mikardo, Ian||Scollan, T.||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)|
|Mitchison, G. R.||Segal, Dr. S.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John (Edin'gh, E.)|
|Moody, A. S.||Shacldeton, E. A. A.||White, H. (Derbyshire, N. E.)|
|Morley, R.||Sharp, Granville||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, E.)||Shawcross, C. N. (Withies)||Wilcock, Group-Capt. C. A. B.|
|Murray, J. D.||Shawcross, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (St. Helens)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Naylor, T. E.||Silkin, Rt. Hon. L.||Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)|
|Neal, H. (Claycross)||Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)||Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)|
|Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)||Skeffington-Lodge, T. C.||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S)|
|Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)||Skinnard, F. W.||Willis, E.|
|Oliver, G. H.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke)||Wills, Mrs. E. A.|
|Orbach, M.||Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)||Wilmot, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)||Smith, S. H. (Hull, S. W.)||Woods, G. S.|
|Palmer, A. M. F.||Sorensen, R. W.||Wyatt, W.|
|Pargiter, G. A.||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank||Younger, Hon. Kenneth|
|Parker, J.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Paton, J. (Norwich)||Stokes, R. R.||Mr. Snow and Mr. George Wallace.|
|Pearson, A.||Swingler, S.|
§ Original Question again proposed,
§ It being after Ten o'Clock and objection being taken to further proceeding, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress, and ask leave to sit again.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.