§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. E. Wakefield.]
§ 9.2 p.m.
§ Dr. Horace King (Southampton, Test)
Recently, on behalf of the Foreign Office, I made a nine weeks' lecture tour in the United States, Canada, and Iceland, and I wish tonight to make a few observations on my American visit. At some other time, I hope to have the opportunity of speaking of my experiences with the friendly Icelandic nation, and, particularly, to speak about the unhappy dispute that exists between us and whether we can bring it to an end.
Tonight, I wish to confine my remarks to the New World, but, first, I should like to thank Parliament for the honour it 134 did me in selecting me as a spokesman on behalf of Britain in America. I should also like to pay tribute to the unsung but magnificent work of the Foreign Service and of British Information Services. It was my privilege to meet the representatives of this service in Washington, Ottawa, Reykjavik, Chicago, St. Louis, Cincinnati, New Orleans, Atlanta, Norfolk, Virginia, Pittsburgh and New York, and I spent many busy hours with members of the Foreign Service in these American cities and towns.
I saw at first hand men and women giving devoted service to Britain, often under quite serious handicaps, and I noted with regret that these people had been hurt, not so much by the Report of the Select Committee on the Foreign Service, but by the way in which the British Press handled that Report, pulling out details of high expenses, often necessarily incurred because of the disadvantageous rates of exchange, and very often because of the foreign policy of the Government to which they were accredited. These Press reports gave a false impression of Foreign Service men as living extravagantly. I found that they were living ordinarily and were working hard, and I am glad to have the opportunity of saying so.
Criticisms have been made recently in this House of proposals to rebuild and expand the Washington Embassy. I saw the present crowded and unsatisfactory Embassy buildings at Washington and I hope that the Government will push on with the reconstruction project.
I urge the Government to give serious and detailed consideration to the problem of the education of the children of our men in the Foreign Service. For both the military man and the civilian who serve their country abroad, the question of their children's education is a grave and serious matter. These men, naturally, want their children to be educated in the British way and, equally naturally, their mothers want to see their children occasionally. For those sent back to England to go to school the problem sometimes arises of where children should go during the vacations when their fathers and mothers are thousands of miles away. Men who serve Britain abroad should be assured that their children will not suffer for it. I should like to see a committee set up to examine this problem in detail.
135 In the meantime, I suggest that the Foreign Office itself can help in a small way by remembering that a man may have children when it is indulging in the complicated and sometimes seemingly fantastic task of posting and re-posting its servants abroad. I may be alone in my opinion that one of the faults of the Civil Service—I believe it has very few, and I was very glad to see the movement in America towards a civil service of our own type—is the habit of moving a man from a job the moment he gets to know something about it. It seems that we are so afraid of a man getting into a groove that once a young civil servant shows some ability in the labour relations department he is moved, probably to the agricultural department—or if someone spends two years in, say, Sierra Leone, and is really getting the feel of the post and beginning to do useful work, he is moved to Tokio.
I admit that we want general practitioners in the Foreign Service—men who can be consuls anywhere—but we also need specialists. When a man is really beginning to get down to all that is involved in occupying an important post, it seems to me that we should leave him there for some time. I know the arguments for moving people, and I can imagine that consuls would not want to be fixed for ever in one of the stickier posts, but I believe that we overdo the moving about of the officers of State.
I was glad to find the British Information Services and the Foreign Service abroad beginning to make contact not only with the old exclusive circles but with the ordinary people of America and Canada. I thought it right that arrangements should be made for me to meet the people whom one might call "important people," but to me it was much more important—not merely because I am a Labour man—that I should meet ordinary folk like myself. Certainly, I thought it right that arrangements were made for me to meet the diplomats, statesmen, and members of the English-Speaking Union, but also to meet as I did members of Rotary Clubs, Kiwanis "Lions," "Elks," "Moose" and all the array of American "animals," the trade unionists in their labour clubs, pickets out on strike, and elementary school teachers and children, as well as university professors and students.
136 Incidentally, I suggest that the British Information Services can do their most useful work in any country in the world by making contacts with the young folk of that country. If friendship between free peoples is to flourish and develop the contacts must be made at all levels. Friendship cannot be imposed upon peoples by Governments; it must take place at the ground roots. I suggest to the British Information Services and the Foreign Service that the contacts we make in small towns in America and Canada matter. Our contacts should not be confined to the cities, but should reach out to the farms, villages and factories.
I urge the Foreign Secretary and the Joint Under-Secretary of State not to regard their labour attaches as frills or the curious invention of the Labour Government, but as a vital piece of the work of the Foreign Service and of the British Information Services. I saw the labour attaches at work in America and was impressed by the importance of the contacts they are making with trade unionists in America. I was glad to see that the policy of the late Ernest Bevin—one of the country's greatest Foreign Secretaries—was beginning to bear fruit, and I was pleased to meet among the consuls men who had begun their education in British elementary schools. Democracy means all kinds of people, and if America can teach us one thing above any other in the contacts that we seek to make across the water, it is the folly of snobbery.
But we want more British people to go abroad. At present, apart from official visitors, about the only ones who can go are businessmen on business; and I would not decry the importance of businessmen making contacts in America and Canada. In an earlier debate today, we have had stressed the importance of businessmen going to Canada and to the New World—that enormous world—in search of markets for British products. But while businessmen can play their part, they do not by any means represent all the community.
There are mothers who cannot visit their sons in the New World. There are mothers-in-law of G.I.s, and there are groups of British citizens who would be glad to send representatives across the water if the Government took certain steps. One of these steps would be to ease dollar restrictions. I read in a Press 137 article that it is estimated that the cost of completely wiping out dollar restrictions would be 3 million dollars. I think it would probably be much more than that—I am not an economist; but if it were only 3 million dollars the reward in the interlinkings between this country and America and Canada would be infinitely more than the cost of those 3 million dollars.
If one would not go as far as completely abolishing dollar restrictions, at any rate in the case of bona fide visits and exchanges, once they were satisfied about their good faith, the Government might make some easement of the dollar position. We should encourage the interchange of clergy, of teachers, of professors, of trade unionists and of Press men. American and British Press men could learn quite a lot from each other, and it would not only be the Americans who would learn from the British. We should encourage the interchange of radio producers. My experiences of commercial radio in America have made me tremendously more enthusiastic in my admiration of the B.B.C., but even the B.B.C. has something to learn from the informal technique of American radio. One American university which I visited regularly sends a student on exchange each year with the University of Exeter, and this kind of exchange could be multiplied if the Government were sympathetic in their financial policy.
There would have to be financial help. I talked to teachers who were over there on exchange, and at present any British teacher going to America or Canada on exchange does so at considerable financial sacrifice to himself. Governments on both sides of the Atlantic ought to be interested in getting down the cost of trans-Atlantic travel and, if that is impossible, of subsidising bona fide exchanges of the kind I have described.
Generous friendliness was offered to me as a British Member of Parliament wherever I went in the United States and Canada. I would not weary the House in expatiating on the hundreds of kindnesses shown to me, but from a host of courtesies I would mention two Parliamentary ones. In Ottawa I was graciously received by Mr. Speaker Baudoin and by the leaders of all parties in the Canadian Parliament, and in Washington by Congressman Yates of the House of 138 Representatives and by Senator Know-land and, through his kindness, by the United States Senate. It will interest hon. Members to know that this latter body received both the hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) and myself on the Floor of the House. Afterwards I attempted to thrash out with Senator Knowland the differences between British and American policies. Apparently from my behaviour and his behaviour since neither of us converted the other, but we argued fearlessly and as friends.
The important thing in what I am attempting to say tonight is that friendship with America and Canada does not mean our seeing eye to eye with either country. The unity of the free world does not mean the uniformity of the free world. We have differences of opinion with America, and it is not good friendship to conceal them. I did not find Americans regarding my different point of view as unfriendly. Incidentally, I differed less from some Americans than they appeared to differ from each other. I was a little surprised at the asperities of American politics, but I differed less from some Americans than from hon. Members of the party opposite.
§ Dr. King
I argued with Republicans and Democrats of every shade and stated firmly the British point of view. While nobody ever expects to convert an opponent, no two intelligent opponents ever leave an argument exactly as they came into it. I found American opinion to be no more monolithic than British opinion. I found no American who wanted war, and I found everywhere in America the same realisation as is possessed by every sane man here—and indeed on either side of the Iron Curtain—that a third World War would mean all vanquished and no victors and world disaster whoever technically won the war.
I found plenty of Americans who would take the risk over Quemoy and the Tachen Islands. It is the duty of our Foreign Service in America to point out the risk involved and our unwillingness that America should take that risk. I found that all Americans regard Formosa somewhat in the way in which we regard Gibraltar and Russia regards Poland and the States of Eastern Europe, namely as 139 territory which must not be in the hands of enemies and so threaten their own safety.
There may be people in America who still think of the possibility of rolling back Communism by armed intervention in the totalitarian States, but I did not meet such people, and I think that that belief is perishing in the United States. I believe that most Americans think that such an armed crusade would only rally the invaded countries around their totalitarian rulers. Most—indeed I believe all—Americans I met believe that the job of the free world is to resist further aggression but not to make aggression.
It is important that on our attitude on the things about which we differ—the Chinese Islands, whether Chiang Kai-shek ought to be pinned down, the recognition of Communist China, the fact that we seek some sort of settlement with the Communist world and that a peaceful settlement does not mean that we condone or like Communism—the British Information Service should speak boldly and clearly. On some of these things, where peace is at stake one false move may bring world calamity and the collective wisdom of the free nations alone can save peace. I attempted, in my way as a back Bencher in this Parliament, to state the British view firmly, and I found no resentment in any corner of America when I did so.
Again, from both sides of the Atlantic, it seems to me that we seem to export our worst features. The American cinema does America a bad service sometimes in the picture it presents to the world of American life. Newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic seem to regard only the seamy side of life as news, and up to now many English people have had their view of America only from American crime comics. Hon. Members may have read in the "New York Times" the plaintive if ironic letter of a juvenile who said he was not a delinquent, had not cut his sister's throat and did not feed on narcotics and, because he was a normal child like most American and English children, he did not get into the newspapers.
I must speak as I find and say that American reporting of British affairs was more accurate on the whole than some British reporting of American affairs. In defence of our newspapers I would only 140 say that the Americans had more space in which to do it. It hardly seems necessary at this late hour to say that McCarthy, for example, is by no means America. One of the pleasant experiences which I had there was becoming aware of the undoubted receding of interference with personal liberty in an exaggerated search for subversiveness, and a new upsurge of the traditional, historical American demand for freedom.
In passing, one might say that one of the greatest political satires in world history is a radio programme called "The Investigator." It has now been recorded on a gramophone record. It tells the story of a committee chairman who dies and goes to Heaven and attempts to clear out subversives like Abraham Lincoln, Socrates and the rest. The fact that this is one of the most popular gramophone records in the United States at the moment is some measure of the reaction of America against excessive interference with freedom.
I believe that Britain has a tremendous contribution to make to world peace and that that contribution is not only in our military strength and our military alliance with N.A.T.O. I believe that with the advent of the H-bomb and even before it—and this wants saying to some Americans—it is sanity and not timidity or cowardice that always makes us in every danger spot of the world press for easement of tension and for peaceful solutions rather than for more active solutions. I believe that we can make that contribution by making, wherever and whenever we have the opportunity, a firm statement of our policy—certainly not by yielding to our mighty American ally because we think that that would be the friendly thing to do. The real friend speaks out straight, and the deep unity of the free way of life, for which so many American, Canadian and British boys died, can stand plain statement of differences of opinion.
No American is going to be patronised by Britain any more. Any assumption of British superiority is either laughed at or resented in America and Canada, and in this both nations are right. By the same token any kowtowing to America is equally disastrous. I wish I had the time and felt that it was fair to speak now of the might, economic power, vitality, and, above all, the wholehearted hospitality of the American people and of how much 141 they appreciate similar hospitality shown by British families to their boys in our country. But I want to say a few words about Canada which is part of America, as the Canadians will tell one, and a separate part as they will also tell one.
Foreign Office lecturers have been sent to Canada from this country almost always as a tail-piece to an American visit. I spent a fortnight in Canada and seven weeks in the United States. I would urge the Government, and I would urge the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to impress upon his colleague the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, that British information work in Canada is vitally important for its own sake It is beyond my power to describe the warm-blooded friendship of Canada. I mention only one example of a Canadian who came over after my meeting to greet me and proudly said that he was a Scot. I asked him when he left Scotland and he said that his father had left Glasgow when he was four. He still had a deep regard for his allegiance to Scotland.
Canada is a young, dynamic, mighty nation, and everywhere I went I saw the upsurge of this young giant, conscious of its destiny. Canada is one of our best friends. We take our best friends for granted and neglect to cultivate their friendship.
I would therefore urge that the British Information Services should extend its work in Canada and send its speakers right across Canada, not imagining that Canada ends in the Eastern Provinces, as Western Members of the Canadian Parliament very bluntly told me. I should like to see Canadian Members of Parliament, American Congressmen and people of all walks of life coming over here to do in our country the kind of thing that the British Information Services lecturers are doing over there. I think it would be good for an American Congressman to address the kind of political meetings we have in our country. I learned a lot from my meetings in America, but not half as much as American politicians would learn from meeting the free British people in political debate.
The best defence of the free way of life and of peace lies in the free interchange of opinion between the ordinary people of the world. Compared with what we spend on armaments, we do not spend 142 enough on this kind of weapon. I asked the Minister to give me the figure, and he was kind enough to tell me that a sum of under £400,000 a year was what we spent on our information services in Canada and in America.
I hope that some day a free passage of men and women without swords or guns in their hands will take place across the Iron Curtain into the countries on the other side, but in the meantime I believe that the best way of avoiding, among free people, divergencies of policy becoming so dangerous as to endanger both peace and freedom and the best way of knitting together those who believe in political freedom is to extend the work which the Foreign Office is doing under the organisation known as British Information.
I wish I had time to refer in detail to the excellent recommendations of the Drogheda Committee, but I will only end by quoting something which sums up all I have been trying to say:First.—;The Overseas Information Services play an important and indeed essential rô le in support of our Foreign, Commonwealth and Colonial policies. Second.—;The work should be done well, continuously and on an adequate scale.Then elsewhere in the Report, the Committee says:To exert influence … Information Services must have three characteristics:—Quality—to attract—they must be good Continuity—to hold attention—they must be regular. Reliability—to inspire confidence—they must be honest.From my experience in the New World I found the British Information Services and the gallant gentlemen of the Consular Service trying to act in the spirit of the Drogheda Report, and I am happy that I have had the privilege of reporting to this House what I saw over there. I would urge the Government to realise that what is spent on this is money well worth spending, and to increase it.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Smithers (Winchester)
It was a happy thought to invite the hon. Gentleman the Member for Southampton, Test (Dr. King) to go to America on this tour. I knew before he went that the hon. Gentleman would be impressed with the massive generosity and the virility and vigour of the American people, and my private sources of information in the United States tell me that he was particularly thorough in his investigations. For 143 example, I am told that the hon. Gentleman played the piano in an old folks' home in St. Louis. I am not sure that he did not sing to the old folk as well. That is the way to find out about the United States. It is really getting down to the grass roots.
The hon. Gentleman will have served two particularly useful purposes if what he has said in the House tonight will help to dispel some ideas in this country and some in the United States: the idea in this country that everybody in the Labour Party is necessarily critical of the Foreign Service, and the idea in the United States that everybody in the Labour Party is necessarily anti-American.
The hon. Gentleman suffers to some extent from the disability of the adolescent whom he mentioned in his speech. He is not, so to speak, a political drug addict or a political mentally deficient. If he had got up and made a slashing attack on the Foreign Service, he would be prominently reported in this country. If he had got up and made a slashing attack on the United States, he might have found space in the American Press. As he has said a lot of useful and sensible and levelheaded things about both, it is ten to one that the Press in either place will not report him—and a great pity it is—even when we get our own Press back the day after tomorrow.
I was glad to hear the hon. Gentleman agree with my opinion that the Foreign Service had been considerably hurt by the Press campaign resulting from the Report of the Select Committee on Estimates about the Foreign Service itself, which gave rise to a wholly false impression of its nature. Having lived with the Foreign Service for many years, though not being a member of it—I was a Service attache—I have no hesitation in saying to the House that diplomacy in the modern age is a hard life. It is hard on the men who carry tremendous burdens of responsibility on very slender pay. It is hard on the wives who have heavy duties, are far from home, and have to compete with foreign colleagues who are much better off. Yet often, on quite slender budgets, they put up a brave show. The entire volume of Press comment on the Report of the Select Committee gave none of that picture, but gave an erroneous and damaging picture of a Foreign Service wallowing in luxury.
144 While I am on that point, may I say that I agree with the remarks of the hon. Gentleman about the Washington Embassy and the desirability of improving it. I served there for a number of years and it is a most uncomfortable building to work in. I do not know what it was designed for. It is nice to look at from the outside, but I should think that the inside was designed for a funeral parlour. I worked in a room with one other man, and whenever either of us got up from the desk the other had to get up also. When a certain noble Lord was Ambassador there and we flew the Union Jack every day—because we flew it particularly vigorously in those times—the butler had to go through the Ambassador's bedroom early every morning to run up the flag from the balcony. To my view that is not a good piece of functional design, and if anything can be done to improve the major and minor details in that Embassy it will be a good thing.
The hon. Gentleman had something to say about the exchange of teachers, and I want to say a word about that also because this is an extraordinarily valuable field. Recently, near Basingstoke, I was attending a dinner given by the local community and there was present an American lady teacher who was in this country on an exchange visit. I could tell from the way in which she spoke, and the way in which people spoke to her at that dinner, that she had won the confidence and admiration of the local community at a level quite different from the political and diplomatic level at which it is much easier for those who are able to do so to move. I am sure that such a teacher would make a tremendous and lasting impression on her pupils.
There is at the moment a very distinguished Winchester College master, Mr. Mallett, in the United States studying the methods of teaching in American schools and particularly studying the teaching of American history. That is a subject which is hardly taught in English schools, or, at any rate, when it is taught it is often done in a manner which is almost as peculiar as the teaching of English history in American schools. I believe that he will come back and see what Winchester can do about it. I hope he will. That is a very valuable sort of exchange.
145 I hope that the Foreign Office will continue to help in every way possible that kind of exchange, although I believe that in this case it is the English-Speaking Union which is carrying it out.
As we are discussing the matter of exchanges, I think it is right to take the opportunity to record the gratitude of this country for the help made available under the American Smith Mundt Act. Every year a very large number of people from all walks of life are sent to the United States at the expense of the American taxpayers and given a completely free hand in going where they like and seeing what they want to see, and they return to this country with a very much greater understanding of affairs. I am sure that the Smith Mundt Act is a most valuable political contribution in the modern world.
The hon. Gentleman talked about the Information Services. It is often thought of as an organisation which puts out news. However, the fact is that the American Press is not interested in news unless it is hot news. I know from my own bitter experience in a minor capacity of trying to get news across to the Press there than the American Press likes to take its news not from a hand-out from an office, but from being there at the event. The way to get news and views across in the United States is not through the handouts of a Press service but by means of lecture tours such as that carried out by the hon. Member.
From that kind of activity news and views can be picked up on the spot by reporters, incidents and contacts are created, and occasionally the sparks fly, and so forth. That is the way in which it can be done. We must not make the mistake of blaming the Press service in the United States if the newspapers there will not print in toto the hand-outs which are produced, because that is simply not the way in which the American newspapers work.
I quarrel with one thing that the hon. Gentleman said. I thought his speech rather gave the impression that the Diplomatic Service had been democratised by the late Mr. Bevin, for whom I had a great admiration. We ought to pay tribute to the present Prime Minister, who introduced radical reforms which amalgamated the Diplomatic and Consular Services. At the time I had my doubts about this, but it has turned out to be a 146 most salutary reform which has resulted in a far wider range of selection of members for the two Services, enabled able men to be promoted and given the Services a means of drawing upon a much wider social field, which is a very valuable thing to be able to do.
I have every confidence in the future of the relationships between our two countries. Since the early days of the war they have undergone a most extraordinary revolution. In the dark days of 1940 we were regarded very often with much suspicion. We were trying to get the United States into the war. We were suspected of being defeated, defeatist, decadent, and all sorts of things. The relationship between us has undergone a radical change. Now that we have gone so far together I am sure that we cannot ever diverge again.
I am sure that the more our politicians can confer and commune with one another and with our peoples the more we shall accelerate the process of fusion of our two civilisations, if I may so call them. I do not know whether the United States is absorbing the British Commonwealth, if the British Commonwealth is absorbing the United States, or whether the two are assimilating one another, but of this I am sure, that today we are becoming one.
§ 9.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Cyril Osborne (Louth)
I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr. King) on the plea he has made to the Foreign Office and I must compliment the Foreign Office on having chosen such an excellent ambassador to represent us in the United States. Since the war I have been privileged to go to the United States five times and to see the work of the British Information Services. On three occasions when I have returned I have made a plea in the House for more money and better facilities for the work of the B.I.S.
It is of the utmost importance that the Americans should understand our point of view and that we should understand theirs. If the hon. Member for Southampton, Test will allow me to say so, so often from the benches opposite we hear bitter, anti-American sentiments, frequently, I believe, founded on lack of knowledge. I would not use the term total ignorance. It is good to hear the hon. Member make such a fair report on what he found in the 147 United States. There is obviously no hope for the free world if the English-speaking peoples fall apart. The very basis of all we hope to attain for ourselves and for our children is in Anglo-American understanding. The greatest enemy of our freedom and our prosperity is that we should not understand the Americans' point of view and that they should not understand ours.
I want to support the plea which the hon. Member has made to the Foreign Office to send more hon. Members like him to the United States. I should especially like to see them going from the other side of the House, although from that point of view I should like to sit there myself while the list was being chosen. It is important, because the hon. Member has not only put the British point of view to the Americans while he has been there but he has come back here to interpret to his own colleagues some of the things he learned while he was in America. The lessons have to be learned both ways.
So many times I have heard hon. Members quite sincerely talk about the "trigger happy" Americans. I have heard them talk about Americans as though they were desperately anxious to start a third world war. Nobody who has been to America could fail to know that there is no nation that desires peace more than the Americans, who are paying more for it.
§ Dr. King
I am sure that the hon. Member wants to do a service to the cause of Anglo-American relations, but he must be fair to my hon. Friends who have made criticisms of the policies of some Americans. The hon. Member should not forget that there have been Americans who have advocated a pre-ventitive war; that there have been Americans of whom it may be charged that they were "trigger happy." The hon. Member should not accuse my hon. Friends of being anti-American when they have called attention to that.
§ Mr. Osborne
It is true that in any free nation there are men who take extreme views. There are such men in this country and on both sides of the House. However, the American people as a whole desire peace most ardently. Since the end of the war no nation in the 148 history of the world has ever given so much towards the cause of peace in U.N.R.RA. and Marshall Aid. Through the United Nations Special Agencies the Americans subscribe 30s. to every 20s. put up by the rest of the world. Under their own Four Point Programme they spend twenty times more than the rest of the world put together. No nation would give more.
The plea of the hon. Member for Southampton, Test was so good that I should like to support it, and not only because of the good he has done by putting the British point of view to the Americans but because of what I hope he will do with some of his colleagues in putting to them some of the things he learned while in America.
May I plead with my hon. Friends who represent the Foreign Office that, in so far as they can influence the Treasury to loosen the purse strings, they will make it possible not only for hon. Members of this House to go to America but also for an exchange, which I think is very necessary, of responsible trade union leaders.
§ Mr. Osborne
Those who are properly and democratically elected on both sides of the Atlantic.
I am merely asking that we should understand their working of the industrial machine and that they may understand our working of it, because, ultimately, it is upon the prosperity of our joint industries that the prosperity of our peoples depend. I appeal to my hon. Friend to pass on to his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer the plea made by the hon. Member for Southampton, Test, whom I congratulate on raising this matter.
§ 9.46 p.m.
§ Mr. John Baird (Wolverhampton, North-East)
I had not intended to take part in the debate, but after listening to the hon. Members who have spoken I thought that I should say a word or two. The reason why I interrupted the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne) to ask what he meant by responsible trade union leaders was because I thought that he might be distinguishing between some trade union leaders and others.
149 I think that one of the chief dangers to Anglo-American relations is that it is very difficult for anyone on this side of the House, especially with a "Bevanite" label to his name, to meet any responsible Americans. I have received invitations to visit all the Iron Curtain embassies and neutral country embassies, but I have never had an invitation to meet any responsible Americans. I think that is true of almost all of us on this side of the House who have that label attached to their names.
§ Mr. Osborne
The next time I get representatives of the American Congress over here, I will invite the hon. Member to have dinner with them in the House.
§ Mr. Baird
I shall be delighted to accept. I wanted to make that point, because I think that it is important. So far as visits to America are concerned, I hope that those of us who have been critical of America will be invited there, also.
I have recently been on a visit to Russia and China, and I think that the Americans will think twice before they will give me a visa. I hope that I am wrong, but there are difficulties for those of us who have been friendly with countries behind the Iron Curtain to get these visas.
I was once going to America on a lecture tour, but I have never been there, so I cannot speak with the same authority as some other hon. Members, and to that extent I apologise for intervening in the debate. On one occassion I received an invitation from American dentists, but I made a speech in this House which attacked English dentists, and the invitation fell through. I missed a wonderful opportunity.
I agree that the British Information Services do not do any harm. I would also say that there are very few hon. Members in this House who have what is considered to be bitter anti-American feeling. I can say of my hon. Friends on this side that I am quite sure that not one of them would wish to be labelled anti-American. Indeed, many of us feel that the only way to build up Anglo-American friendship is to be quite forthright in our criticism of America when we think that she is in the wrong.
To a certain extent, I think that one of the greatest barriers between Us is that we for a considerable time stood 150 alone fighting Hitler. We were bled white in that stand. We have now to accept economic assistance from our friends across the Atlantic, and we are also tied by a military alliance with America in order to retain what we consider to be our own security. In that way, we feel beholden to America, and that is one of the things which is keeping us from getting together on an equal basis.
§ Mr. Smithers
I am tied by an alliance to my wife, but that does not make me in any way get on badly with her.
§ Mr. Baird
However, I am sure that in this country there are many people who may express anti-American sentiments simply because we feel that we are so beholden to America. One of the major difficulties which is keeping us apart is that there are certain political strings, perhaps not clearly defined, tied to far too much American economic assistance. If some of that assistance were granted more freely without political strings being attached to it, then friendship would be built up. I know that I am introducing a new element into the debate, but it is necessary.
As I said, I have just come back from China. I know the feeling there is in Russia, and especially in China, about restriction of trade. British businessmen want to do far more trade with China than they do today, but because of the political strings of economic aid we are not able to carry on that trade. I have a constituent, a businessman, who has just come back from China. I had a letter from him this morning. He wants to sell generators, but he cannot because of the political strings. If we could remove that difficulty we should do a great deal of good.
On the question of information services, I would say that some American senators have a queer idea of England. When I was going to Russia I flew by K.L.M. to Prague. We were waiting on Prague airport for the Russian plane to take us to Moscow. We noticed two other visitors at the airport. Obviously, 151 they were Americans. They were wearing big Stetsons and chewing gum. After we had boarded the plane my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Lewis) got into conversation with them. He said to me, "Meet my American friend, Mr. Battle," and the American said, "I am not Mr. Battle, I am Congressman Battle."
He had come to Europe for a holiday and, as he said, he thought that he would call the bluff of the Russians by applying for a Russian visa. He had the shock of his life when he got one within 10 days. He had to go to Moscow—
§ Mr. Osborne
He had not to go to Moscow. Surely the Russians had the shock of their lives that he had the good sense to want to go there.
§ Mr. Baird
We had a wonderful discussion in the plane. When he got to Moscow the Russians were quite suspicious, but he stayed in our hotel and I think that he enjoyed himself very well.
Having said that, I want to point out that this is also a political problem. We are doing Anglo-American friendship a great disservice when we argue that there is no serious war feeling in the United States today. I have been on an air base in Shanghai and I have seen American planes come over piloted by Chiang Kai-shek's men. I believe that the Chinese have shown a tremendous restraint in not trying to take the offshore islands long ago. But for American assistance, these islands could have been taken easily by the People's Government of China. They belong to China, and the Chinese have shown great restraint. I think we must admit that.
There are some people in America who talk about American interests and say that we cannot give any more away to Communism—this is the free world against the Communist world. We must not sloganise politics if we are to build up friendship. What is the free world? Franco no more represents a free world than Mao Tse-Tung, Syngman Rhee or Chiang Kai-shek. We will never build up a really true foundation for friendship between America and ourselves until the Americans realise that in this world we must live and let live. There are some in America who have not yet realised 152 that, and I believe that the more money we spend on telling the Americans why we take a different point of view from them, especially over China, the nearer we shall be to building up the friendship which I think so essential to world peace.
§ 9.55 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Lord John Hope)
As sometimes happens on occasions such as this, the debate has been one of the most interesting to which I have listened for a long time. It has gone to what I might call the heart of the matter. The hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr. King) has done a great service in raising the question of the British Information Services, and I should like to add my thanks to those already expressed to him by my hon. Friends for the service he did in his journey to the United States. I think that the hon. Member would like me to couple with his name that of my hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) who, unfortunately, could not be present tonight, much as he wished to be. Although not working together, both hon. Gentlemen were in America at the same time and both did valiant service.
Some years ago I did my humble best to do the same thing when I went over to the United States to speak. Then there was a Labour Government in power, and now a Conservative Government is in office. The hon. Member for Test is a member of the Labour Party and spoke for Britain, just as I did my best to do in other circumstances. There is not the slightest doubt that the American people appreciate it when they see someone from this country speaking for his own country and taking deliberate care not to attack his country's Government just because it happens to be different from the party which he supports.
If the feeling of friendship between our two countries falls, everything falls. I cannot help feeling sometimes—and this is why I am so grateful to the hon. Member for raising the subject—that our people need to be reminded about the vital nature of and the necessity for this bond between the two peoples. I believe it is natural that as the years pass since the war there should be a gradual fading of the stimulus of self survival which kept us together during the war years. For reasons, some of which are understandable and others which are less so, there is 153 no doubt that the spontaneous affection for Americans felt by people in our own country is not so strong now as it has been in the past. It is no use blinding oneself to that fact. I am not a pessimist about it, and I am sure that it is a temporary phase, but it must be faced.
Before I deal in some detail, as I wish to do, with the questions asked of me by the hon. Member for Test and other questions which have been posed, may I say a word about the speech of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mr. Baird). I think his was a most interesting speech because—and here I beg the hon. Member to believe that I am measuring my words—it was the first occasion on which—he used the word "Bevanite"—I have heard a "Bevanite Member" speaking—
§ It being Ten o'clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. R. Thompson.]
§ Lord John Hope
It was the first occasion I heard a "Bevanite Member" speaking of the Americans in a restrained way. [Interruption.] Oh, yes. The hon. Member may say it has been done before in the House, and I accept it, but I have not myself heard it from his friends or heard the Americans discussed in such a quiet and responsible way as he has done tonight, and I am saying that—
§ Mr. Baird
May I say that the right hon. Gentleman has not been in the House very much recently, because my hon. Friends, and especially my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), have been very restrained in their language about America, and I believe that he is a sincere and good friend of America.
§ Lord John Hope
That last remark is a valuable one, which I hope will not go unheard beyond these shores. I really mean that.
The hon. Member also said that he had never been invited to meet responsible Americans here. I am not feeling in a mood to be sarcastic in the least I assure him. If he and his hon. Friends feel that they have not met in this country Americans whom the rest of us on both sides of the House have met, because of 154 their apparent dislike of Americans, which may be over-stated by the rest of us, I will do all that I can, and I think that I can promise success in my mission, to put that right. I assure the hon. Member that nobody will welcome an opportunity of meeting and talking with them more than our American friends in this country.
I do not think I shall go into the points he raised about political strings. I do not agree with what the hon. Member said, and if I go too deeply into that, I shall get involved, as the hon. Member himself almost did, in questions about trade with China and foreign policy in a big way. I think we might beneficially keep the debate rather narrow, although I agree that such questions are not entirely irrelevant.
May I now deal with some of the specific points raised by the hon. Member for Test, and may I first say how grateful I am to him for giving me such detailed notice of what he proposed to say. It always helps very much in an Adjournment debate, and I assure him I am most grateful. He said something about Canada, but perhaps I should confine myself to the United States, because my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for Commonwealth Relations is here and has heard all that the hon. Gentleman said and will, I am sure, take note of it. I think he agrees with it.
One of the earliest points the hon. Gentleman made in his most helpful and constructive speech, with almost all of which I fully agree, was concerned with what in an eloquent phrase he called "the folly of snobbery." How right he was, and how good it will be for anybody in the least inclined to be a snob to go to the United States and see how remarkably free are the people there from that most unattractive and hideous quality. Of course, he was right when he postulated the function of visiting speakers from this country as being that of meeting all sorts of Americans, and that is exactly what everyone who goes from here has tried to do and something from which everyone has derived the greatest possible advantage.
Then, the hon. Gentleman made the point that while in America he saw the same realisation that a third world war will mean that all are vanquished and none is victor. I think that was the 155 phrase he used, and I am certain that, in saying that as a member of the Labour Party, he has done yet another service. It is a point which was echoed by my hon. Friend behind me. Of course, there are expressions of extreme opinion; naturally, in a country of 150 million, there are bound to be.
The hon. Member was undoubtedly right when he said that, by and large, the great heart of that country beats as soundly as any English heart does here, and it really is not helping if anybody seizes upon extremist opinion and tries to put that across to the people of this country as being typical of America, because it is not. Indeed, it is not irrelevant to say that the feeling which the hon. Member himself sensed so strongly is in striking contrast with what, unfortunately, is now coming in profusion from Russia in that very connection. Russia is telling her people that it is not true that there will be no victor if there should be a third world war, but that it is only capitalism that will be destroyed.
The hon. Member mentioned the export problem. I use the word "problem" advisedly. He said that we seem to export to each other our worst features, and I am inclined to agree with him about that. What can be done about it is another matter. It might be suggested that the remedy lies very much in the hands of our friends the Americans and, speaking purely from the point of view upon which we are concentrating tonight, it would be very nice if, in the films they send us, they were able to combine the commercial success which one wishes for them with an attractive portrayal of people and manners. They could do a great deal if they were prepared to do it, but it must be appreciated that internal demand in the United States wants this kind of film. The film producers know what their own people like. They do not want to see themselves as they are, but as something much more unattractive.
The hon. Member asked whether something could be done about the families of Foreign Service officers. I thank him for the tributes which he has paid to the Foreign Service as he came across it in the United States. I know that the Service will be especially grateful for what he has said about it. Certainly we, in the Foreign Office, thank him for his words. The 156 problem of the education of the children of members of the Foreign Service serving abroad is one of constant concern to us.
I have two things to tell the House about this. First, authority has recently been obtained to pay the return passage of a child at boarding school in the United Kingdom once in a tour of duty. It is not everything, but it is a great step. Secondly, the question of improvements in allowances for children of Foreign Service officers serving abroad, when those children are at boarding schools in the United Kingdom, is under active consideration at the moment.
§ Lord John Hope
I am obliged to the hon. Member for making that clear.
He asked whether we could steady the rate of moving about of Foreign Service personnel. It is true that the rate of posting in recent years has been faster than is desirable, but it is also true that the rate is now slowing down. The speed-up was largely due to the dislocation resulting from the war. During the war there was no recruitment and, as a consequence, in the immediate post-war period there was a great deal too much chopping and changing. That is now under control, and the situation is becoming very much better.
A more thorny problem which he went into concerned the freeing of dollars, which is what it would amount to, for more ordinary citizens to go to the United States. How one wishes that that could be done. Perhaps as we succeed in liberalising trade generally, which is what we want to do, so it will be easier for this exchange to gather in momentum and in size. Certainly, as the hon. Member knows, the Government do all that they can to encourage the exchange of teachers and students; and although this is entirely a matter for the churches concerned, great good has been done by the exchange of ministers of religion. I have seen home of it and I think it is a wonderful work.
The hon. Member thought that we should have more labour attaches and he asked us not to regard them as a frill. We do not regard them as a mere frill, 157 but as a most important part of the service. We are very conscious of the good work which they are doing. It is the policy that all Foreign Service officers should be equipped and able to make and maintain friendly contacts themselves in all cross-sections of foreign populations.
I heartily agree with what the hon. Member said regarding invitations to Congressmen to come over here: the more the better. I think that with any luck, we shall see a group of Congressment visiting the United Kingdom this year under the auspices of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
§ Mr. Smithers
Would my hon. Friend take the point that if Congressmen coming to this country could give us a little more notice of their coming, sometimes we in Parliament would very much like to do things for them and would be much better able to help them when they arrive? They are apt simply to blow in, and then it is too late.
§ Lord John Hope
I agree. But notice of coming is not exactly an American characteristic; it is one of the attractive things about Americans. As my hon. Friend says, they blow in and away they go. They go a thousand or two miles 158 in what seems like a matter of minutes and are surprised when one is a little put off by the speed and secrecy of their arrival. I am glad that my hon. Friend has mentioned that, and I hope that his words will fall upon receptive ears in Congress. It would certainly be a great help, not only to us, but also to them when they come here, if notice of their arrival was given.
I think I have covered the points that the hon. Member and my hon. Friends have made. In conclusion, I repeat that this debate has been of great value. It has dealt with probably the most important single factor in the maintenance of peace: that is, the maintenance of friendly relations between the English-speaking peoples of the world. Anybody in this country who for his own political or other reasons deliberately damages those relations is doing no service to the cause which all of us, whatever our feelings and whichever side of the House we occupy, have at heart: that is the cause of world peace.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Adjourned accordingly at fourteen minutes past Ten o'clock.