HC Deb 19 June 1950 vol 476 cc854-6
50. Major Beamish

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement describing the decisions reached during the recent conference with Mr. Edward W. Barrett, United States Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, to co-ordinate broadcasting to Communist-governed countries.

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

Yes, Sir. The hon. and gallant Gentleman will have seen the communique issued at the conclusion of these meetings, in the course of which co-operation over the whole field of overseas information work was discussed. Broadcasting, particularly to Eastern Europe and to other areas which are dominated or threatened by Communism, occupied an important place in the discussions, and the possibilities of co-ordinating activities in this respect were fully considered.

The desirability of expanding and sharing the technical facilities available to the B.B.C. and the "Voice of America" for broadcasts to certain areas was recognised and a number of specific projects are now under examination. Existing Anglo-American operations to counter the effects of jamming were reviewed, and it was agreed that a study of further measures should be jointly undertaken by technical experts of both countries.

Major Beamish

Will there now be a permanent liaison between ourselves and the United States, in view of the great importance of co-ordinating our output to the Communist-dominated countries with theirs; and can the hon. Gentleman say anything about the new and extremely powerful station soon to be set up in Western Germany?

Mr. Davies

In reply to the first part of that supplementary question, permanent liaison has been arranged. As to the second part, we do not feel that we are in a position to disclose details of projects which are still under discussion with the Governments concerned.

Sir W. Smithers

In making the arrangements will the hon. Gentleman also try to stop pro-Communist propaganda from the B.B.C., which is very rife today?

58. Mr. Profumo

asked the Secretary of State of Foreign Affairs what advice he proposes to give to the British Broadcasting Corporation in order to enable the Corporation to ensure that its broadcasts to East European countries shall be used for the greatest possible furtherance of His Majesty's Government's policy in respect of the complete co-ordination of the Atlantic Treaty Powers' resolve to counter Soviet propaganda which was recently agreed at the Foreign Ministers' Conference in London.

Mr. Ernest Davies

I assume that the hon. Member is referring to the agreement reached at the recent meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the North Atlantic Treaty Powers "to promote and co-ordinate public information in furtherance of the objectives of the Treaty, while leaving responsibility for national programmes to each country." This will be the responsibility of the proposed Council of Deputies. The B.B.C. will in due course be advised as to the best means of co-ordinating overseas broadcasting in furtherance of the objectives of the Treaty.

Mr. Profumo

Does the Under-Secretary not realise that this is far too important a problem to leave to mere liaison between the Foreign Office and the B.B.C.; and is it not vital at this moment that his Department should take full responsibility for all broadcasts which are going out to these Iron Curtain countries so that the B.B.C. can be a complete spearhead of the foreign policy of His Majesty's Government?

Mr. Davies

Relations between the Foreign Office and the British Broadcasting Corporation are laid down in a White Paper which was presented to Parliament, and arrangements must be made in accordance with that agreement.

Major Beamish

Is the Under-Secretary aware that the Government have wasted four and a half years before doing anything in this important matter; and can he say whether an early decision is likely to be reached?

Mr. Davies

I certainly would not accept the hon. and gallant Gentleman's statement that four and a half years have been wasted. The B.B.C. have been doing a considerable amount of overseas broadcasting during the last four and a half years, most of which has been of very great value.

Mr. Anthony Nutting

Can the Under-Secretary say when these instructions are to be given to the B.B.C. by the Foreign Office? From his original answer to the Question it seemed as if there would be some considerable delay; the hon. Gentleman spoke about "in due course," and talked about a meeting of the Council of Deputies. Can he say when these instructions are to be given?

Mr. Davies

I think there is a little confusion here. There is obviously liaison between the Foreign Office and the B.B.C, as the House is well aware. This is a further development arising out of a recent meeting of the Atlantic Council in London for the purpose of furthering the objects of the Atlantic Council; it is for that purpose that further liaison is to be established.