HC Deb 27 February 1951 vol 484 cc1913-4
55. Mr. Profumo

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will hold discussions with the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Defence before deciding whether to make any change in the grant-in-aid for the British Broadcasting Corporation's Overseas Service.

Mr. Gaitskell

Before recommending the House to approve an Estimate, I naturally consult those of my colleagues who are interested.

Mr. Profumo

Does that answer mean that the right hon. Gentleman has already consulted, or will consult? If it means that he will consult, will he please bear in mind that broadcasting is the only known medium for piercing the Iron Curtain and that any defence plan can be only a matter of patchwork unless it makes the fullest possible use of this medium? Would it not be better to increase rather than to decrease this programme?

Mr. Gaitskell

I am in process of consulting my colleagues. I am well aware of the importance of broadcasting to the Iron Curtain countries, but I am also aware of the importance of economy in public expenditure.

Brigadier Head

Does not the right hon. Gentleman consider that, although we all realise the importance of economy in public expenditure, to spend £4,700 million on defence and to cut the vital part of our defence in the cold war, which is broadcasting, seems to be a bad place to start economising?

Mr. Gaitskell

The hon. and gallant Gentleman should not assume that that implication is involved.

Major Tufton Beamish

Has the right hon. Gentleman already decided on a cut of half a million pounds in the grant-in-aid? Did he decide on that before consulting the Foreign Secretary and the Minister of Defence?

Mr. Gaitskell

Perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman better await the publication of the Estimate.