HC Deb 08 November 1954 vol 532 cc847-8
20. Mr. Ernest Davies

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if a decision has yet been reached in regard to implementation of the long-term proposals in the Drogheda Report.

Sir Anthony Eden

Her Majesty's Government have accepted the broad principles set out in the Drogheda Report and have been most grateful to the members of the Committee for their thorough and valuable investigations. Her Majesty's Government must have liberty to maintain flexibility in a situation in which there are constant new developments. The House will be informed of the provision for the coming year when the Estimates are laid.

Mr. Davies

Can the Foreign Secretary give us some indication of the extent of this flexibility? He said that the Government accept the broad principles, but those broad principles include considerably increased expenditure. Is the Foreign Secretary now committed to that?

Sir A. Eden

The position is that last year we proposed an increase of about £100,000 in expanding the information services. Those expansions will be maintained, and we shall propose some increase in the expenditure next year. How far it will go in new work will have to depend to some extent upon how far we can avoid rising costs. I can tell the House that it is that problem which, perhaps even more abroad than at home, is giving us most concern in trying to carry out our programme.

Mr. Mayhew

Is the Foreign Secretary aware that the Soviet leaders are now stating openly that they are preparing for a war of ideas with the non-Communist world, and that, compared with the effort and expenditure which they are making in that war of ideas, the kind of figures he has been talking about are ludicrously small and ineffective? Bearing in mind that we spend £1,600 million upon arms, will he please pay more attention to the need for increased information work overseas?

Sir A. Eden

I am conscious of the importance of our information work overseas, and of the vast sums which the Soviet are spending in that connection, but I am also conscious of the even vaster sums which they spend directly upon armaments.

Mr. Gordon Walker

Can the Foreign Secretary say that his reply to the previous supplementary question means that the Report of the Drogheda Committee is to be substantially carried out? From what he said, it seemed that that Report was not to be carried out to any substantial extent.

Sir A. Eden

We accept the broad principles. The difficulty lies in the pace at which it can be done, and that is bound to be conditioned by the question of cost, which is giving us most concern.

Mr. Davies

Can the Foreign Secretary give us some indication at the earliest possible opportunity of the extent of the programme for the information services, not only in relation to the cost but to the actual expansion of the work which will be done?

Sir A. Eden

As I said, there was some expansion in the present year. What we are able to do in the next year will depend upon how much we are able to achieve success in this matter of keeping down the costs. If we are not successful, the new money will be absorbed by costs instead of by the new work that we want to see.

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