HC Deb 19 December 1956 vol 562 cc1259-60
11. Mr. Bean

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on what date his Department began preparing material for transmission from the former Sharq-al-Adna station in Cyprus; what staff are at present engaged in this work; on what previous occasions his Department has undertaken direct broadcasting; and if he will arrange for all the scripts to be made available in the Library of the House of Commons.

Mr. Dodds-Parker

The Foreign Office began preparing material on 30th October. The staff engaged is composed partly of established members of the Foreign Service and partly of unestablished employees. The preparation of broadcasting material and the broadcasting of programmes has always been one of the functions of information officers.

As regards the hon. Member's request for scripts, I would refer him to the reply given on 17th December to the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart).

Mr. Benn

In view of the fact that the psychological warfare unit of the Allied Command which did the previous broadcasts over this station did not include anyone who was able to speak Arabic and therefore played, over the "Voice of Britain", as incidental music, Colonel Nasser's own march, composed for Egypt, will he say whether, in his judgment, the Foreign Office is likely to do better? Would it not be better still to give the job to the B.B.C., who are skilled in telling the truth abroad?

Mr. Dodds-Parker

I do not know to which march of Colonel Nasser's the hon. Member is referring, but I understand that there is one which is played on the bagpipes and which includes the phrase: Will ye no' come back?

18. Mrs. Castle

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will hand over to the British Broadcasting Corporation responsibility for the broadcasts now being organised by his Department from the Sharq-al-Adna Broadcasting Station in Cyprus.

Mr. Dodds-Parker

Discussions have been going on with the British Broadcasting Corporation to determine how much the Corporation's contribution to the programmes of this station can be increased. At present the British Broadcasting Corporation contributes four-and-three-quarter hours a day out of a total of fifteen hours which is being broadcast.

Mrs. Castle

Is the Minister aware that this is not a question of increasing the contribution of the B.B.C. but of deciding whether our propaganda in the Middle East can be done more effectively by the voice of the British nation through the B.B.C., which is recognised as reliable in its facts and impartial, or whether it should be done through a Government agency which is pouring out partial propaganda, which, I must add—having read many of the scripts which have now been made available—is very dull and bad propaganda?

Mr. Dodds-Parker

I cannot accept what the hon. Lady says. The question of the future of this station, as has already been said, is under consideration by my right hon. and hon. Friends. It is not just a question of dull propaganda. If anyone, even one of us in this House, listens for more than two hours a day he knows that there are other things to which people want to listen besides talks and news. One of the things people want to listen to is music, and I would say to the hon. Lady, if she will keep it to herself, that certain investigations are going on north of the Border during hogmanay because they seem to produce the sort of music which people in the Middle East like.