§ 3.5 p.m.
§ LORD STRABOLGI asked His Majesty's Government what is the present method of controlling the programmes of the British Broadcasting Corporation, including the news bulletins; which Minister is now responsible for the B.B.C.; and moved for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I apologise for raising two questions in your Lordships' House on two days in succession, but events move very rapidly, and we find that there are a great many matters which agitate the public mind. We think it is far better that they should be ventilated on the floor of your Lordships' House or of another place and answers, appropriate or otherwise, be given by His Majesty's Minister, than that the people should just grumble and be discontented and not know that there is another side to the case. Besides the question I have on the Paper, there is a similar question in the name of the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, and I am not going to stand long between him and the House. My question arose out of an answer given by the noble and learned Lord the Minister of Information 1260 to a question by Lord Newton last week. There is some uncertainty left in the minds of your Lordships as to where the responsibility lies for the conduct of the British Broadcasting Corporation. It is to clear that matter up that I ventured to put this question on the Order Paper.
§ The Englishman, my Lords, used to grumble about the weather. He does not grumble about the weather any more now; he grumbles about the B.B.C. Everyone grumbles about it, and people do not always realise the great difficulties under which the B.B.C. have carried on since the outbreak of the present war. I do appreciate those difficulties. I know they had to move at short notice to a mysterious unknown place the name of which everyone knows and which has been given on the German wireless already, and that they had to carry on with a truncated staff, and so on. Furthermore, I am informed—perhaps the noble and learned Lord may confirm this or contradict it—that they cannot engage any artist to sing a comic song or anything else without the permission of the Minister of Information. Perhaps that means delay. The noble and learned Lord shakes his head; I am very glad to know that.
§ The complaints that are made are that the programmes have been uninteresting, and already, I think, there has been great improvement. That they are livelier and better now, I believe everyone will agree who listens regularly to the British programmes. They certainly have been, however, rather on the gloomy side. For example, last week I tuned in and heard a dreadful account by a gloomy female of the awful fate of a young lad who was left without his mother, who was then on her death-bed—a most harrowing business. I turned to the programme and found that this was a rendering of that world-famous novel East Lynne, which is generally considered the most tragic work in English literature. Whether this should be put on the air at this time I feel doubtful. There was also a version of The Murder in the Red Barn, a very tragic and melodramatic play; I wonder whether that was suitable at this time. There is too much mass murder going on in the world without these artificial aids to gloom, I suggest to your Lordships.1261
§ As I have said, however, there has been an improvement there; but my question is, who is responsible for these programmes? To whom should we address complaints? And a much bigger question is concerned, that of dispensing with the services of most of the Board of Governors; but that has been raised in another place by my right honourable friend Mr. Attlee, and I therefore do not propose to touch on it now. It raises a big constitutional question in connection with the Charter of the B.B.C., and I am not going to venture to put that before your Lordships this afternoon for that reason. After all, the people do want entertaining at this time. They do not like to venture out of their own houses in the darkness, and they rely for their entertainment on the B.B.C. Although there have been improvements, I am sure that the noble and learned Lord is aware of the need for further improvement. At the same time I make allowances for the difficulties.
§ Now I come to something far more important. I only wish to refer to two matters and the first is the British broadcasting to India. I did not give notice that I was raising this matter to the noble Marquess the Secretary of State, but I am sure he is aware of this, and I believe he would support what I say. India is being flooded just now with radio broadcasts from Germany. The reception is good, and these programmes designed for India are subtly presented and may have some effect. On the other hand, there is little from England and the reception is poor. There is some technical reason there, which I suggest should be looked into.
§ So much for India. With regard to the news bulletins, the universal complaint is that they are not full enough. We do not get enough news in them, and the time allowed for the giving of the news bulletins is frequently not used. Last Tuesday my noble friend Lord Snell asked a question about India, and the noble Marquess, Lord Zetland, made a very important pronouncement on behalf of the Government. In the Nine O'clock News that night we had the usual colourless statement of facts which had appeared in the newspapers earlier in the day, and then at the end the announcer said, "We now have four minutes to spare, and we will put on a gramophone 1262 record of light music." And there was not a word about the statement of the noble Marquess. I took it upon myself to write to the noble Marquess, because if the House of Lords is going to be censored I think we ought to say something about it.
§ The following day my noble friend initiated a debate on India, in which the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, and again the Secretary of State for India, all made very important statements—and the Indian situation is of importance at the present time. Again, in the Nine O'clock News there was not one word of these proceedings, but, as there were three or four minutes to spare, a gramophone record of light opera music was presented instead. Next day the noble Lord, Lord Harmsworth, introduced a debate on a very important subject, food production, and we had a statement, also of importance, from Lord Denham on behalf of the Government. This matter interests every agriculturist in the country and the general public; but not a word was said about it in the news bulletin. I really think this matter should be looked into.
§ Everyone knows that the German wireless propaganda is very active. I do not know how successful it is—a lot of it is obviously quite unsuccessful. But there is not really a corresponding activity on the part of our own wireless broadcasting. We have had two speeches on the ether on the great political matters of the day which carried weight and counted. One was the speech last Sunday by the First Lord of the Admiralty, and the other was a speech earlier on by my right honourable friend Mr. Greenwood. Those two speeches were received in this country and elsewhere most favourably. Apart from them I am sorry to have to say there has been nothing that would really hearten our people, encourage our friends, or discourage our enemies. We should know who is responsible for this. One of the objects of my question is to find out, and I believe the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, wishes to get the same information. We should know who is tackling the matter, and who will put it right. I beg to move.
§ 3.15 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ASTOR, who had given Notice that he would ask His Majesty's Government whether the same censor- 1263 ship is imposed on the British and Foreign Press and on the B.B.C. in regard to the dissemination of news and the expression of personal comment; what are the relationships of the Minister of Information and of the Minister who replies in Parliament for the B.B.C.; and move for Papers, said: My Lords, I believe it would suit the convenience of the noble Lord who is to reply if I were to speak now so that he can reply to both our Motions at the same time. I shall be very brief. The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, has covered the ground very vigorously, and as a matter of fact this question of the Ministry of Information has been before the public for fully a month now. This is the second debate we have had here. The matter has been referred to on several occasions in another place, and there have been questions which have elicited information on more than ten separate days in another place, so that, as a matter of fact, matters are now getting straightened out.
§ I want to bring up two things in particular to-day. The first is the fact that there has been a whole month before we could get this cleared up, and the second is that I believe we could have avoided a great deal of the trouble if the Government had acted sooner in establishing machinery for countering the propaganda of Dr. Goebbels. After all, Dr. Goebbels has been at war for fully a year. As I understand it, the object of the Ministry of Information and of the B.B.C. is to give friends and neutrals material, news, and opinions which will counter the misrepresentations of, and the attacks which are made upon, this country from Berlin, and also—and this is another important point—to influence German public opinion. Last spring, it seems to me, was the critical moment for influencing public opinion. I see by the Press that if anybody in Germany is so unfortunate as to be caught listening in to news coming from this country he is liable to severe punishment. Therefore I regret very much the delay there was in setting up some sort of machinery for replying to the constant misrepresentation which was coming from Dr. Goebbels and his organisation last spring.
§ I think that if a nucleus Ministry of Information had been set up and been in operation, and if they had taken over 1264 some of the functions of the B.B.C. last spring to deal with these attacks, not only in this country but in the Empire and in other countries in the world, a great deal of the trouble to-day might have been avoided. The B.B.C. by its constitution is unsuited for propagandist activity. By its Charter, as I understand it, it is intended to give news, and not to disseminate controversial political views. If a nucleus Ministry of Information had been set up, and if that Ministry had taken over those functions of the B.B.C. which were associated with the replies to Dr. Goebbels' attacks, I think a great deal of good might have been done. What happened was that when war was declared over a month ago, the Government had then to set up improvised machinery, collect a team, and fit it in with the B.B.C. So the first point I wish to make is that a great deal of the difficulty with which we have been struggling—for which I do not blame the noble Lord who is going to reply—might have been avoided if the Government had looked ahead, and had realised that there was here a serious attack being made upon us with which we ought to deal. I am afraid they were as remiss in dealing with that as they were in setting up an adequate Ministry of Supply. Many of us, during the past year, were constantly urging them to set up a full Ministry of Supply, and I think now it is generally admitted that the delay in doing so has been lamentable.
§ The second point I want to make is that this criticism has been going on, sometimes in Parliament, sometimes in the Press, sometimes between individuals, for over a month, and it should have been dealt with much more rapidly. Before I go on with that, I would just like to say a word about the points which are specifically referred to in my Question on the Paper. I do not want to go into them at any length because I realise quite well that many of the grievances and hardships and much of the criticism that existed a few weeks ago have been put right. There is no object at this date in reviving that controversy. But there has been a very great feeling of injustice on the part of many Pressmen, friendly, anxious to help, who have been held up by an unwise censorship and have seen their competitiors able to get their news and their views through much more 1265 rapidly than they could. I hope the noble Lord will be able to assure us that all that sort of grievance has ceased to exist. I hope the noble Lord will be able to tell us whether he is the Minister who is responsible for the talks to our Allies, to neutrals, and to the enemy, and also whether he is responsible, or whether it is the Cabinet who are responsible, for the leaflets which are dropped periodically over Germany.
§ The noble Lord who preceded me referred to the inadequacy of the news sent out to India by the B.B.C. As I understand it, when war started, the B.B.C. ceased to relay news to India, and Germany had a free run. One has only to read the papers to see that there is considerable difference of opinion—a potential trouble—in India in connection with our war aims, and it would be a great pity if we did not take full, immediate, and adequate steps to deal with the accusations which are coming from Berlin. Berlin is accusing us of Imperialism and all that sort of thing. I hope the noble Lord will be able to tell us that the recent practice of only sending news to India in one language—English—has been improved upon. As I understand it, Berlin speaks to India in Hindustani and in four or five other languages, and I hope very much that the noble Lord will be able to tell us that steps have been taken to put us on an equal footing with Berlin in this respect.
§ Also I hope he will be able to tell us who it is that is responsible for answering the misrepresentations sent out to India from Berlin. I am afraid he may say that that is left to India to deal with, that it is the All-India Radio Corporation which is expected to deal with the attacks and misrepresentations which come from Berlin. I want to submit to the noble Lord that in India there are neither men nor materials, nor is there the money, to deal adequately with this. In the present state of public opinion in India it would be unfair, unreasonable, and unwise to put upon the taxpayer of India the extra expense necessary for dealing with these attacks from Berlin. I hope the noble Lord will be in a position to assure us that he or his Department will deal with that. Then I saw in the papers the other day that concern was felt in responsible quarters in South Africa at the failure of the British Ministry of Information to counter effectively the insidious Nazi pro- 1266 paganda that comes over the air nightly from Berlin from the short-wave wireless station in Afrikaans. I hope the noble Lord will be able to give us some information as to whether any, and if so what, steps have been taken to improve thenews service in Afrikaans.
§ I would like to take this opportunity of trying to see what is the original cause of the trouble. It is worth probing this and trying to find it out, because I am not such an optimist as to imagine that this is the only grievance we shall have against action of the Government. I want to see what it is that is really responsible for the muddle which has arisen and why it has been allowed to continue so long. I suggest that this has been going on for four or five weeks, and it may not be over yet, because we have not yet got that full effective Cabinet organisation which existed in 1917 and which enabled the Government then in existence to deal successfully with the prosecution of the war. There was an announcement recently that we were to have a War Cabinet. This is not a point I expect the noble Lord to deal with, but it is a point which he and his colleagues have to bear in mind. If you compare the Cabinet organisation and composition to-day with that which existed in 1917, you will find fundamental differences. Take the size. In 1917 the War Cabinet was about half the size of the present War Cabinet. If you take its composition, the object of the War Cabinet then was to have Ministers in a position to give their full time and attention to the successful prosecution of the war and to clear up difficulties, muddles, grievances, and deficiencies as they arose. It is quite impossible to expect that the three Service Ministers, who are members of the War Cabinet, should be able to find the time to settle expeditiously all the difficulties which have arisen in connection with this particular question of publicity. It does not concern them at all, and if they were to give a great deal of time to it their own departmental duties would suffer.
§ A large Cabinet consisting, as the present one does, of departmental heads, cannot possibly deal as rapidly and expeditiously with matters such as those which have arisen in connection with publicity as could a small, efficient War Cabinet consisting of Ministers not responsible for Departments. Then there is 1267 another point, and that is the age of the 1917 Cabinet and the age of the present Cabinet. I am not going to give their ages, but I suggest to any one interested that it is well worth examining the ages of individual members of the 1917 Cabinet and comparing it with the ages of the present Cabinet. I had an opportunity in 1917 of watching that Cabinet in operation, because I was part of the Secretariat, and it was extraordinary how quickly, when you had a small group of men, carefully selected for their gifts and qualities, without departmental responsibilities, they could deal with the most difficult problems which arise inevitably in war—munitions, shipping, food, whatever it was. They dealt with them quickly, and moved on to the examination of other problems as they arose. Now, however, we have a slow and cumbersome machine. It has taken over a month to settle this one question of publicity. Today the agitation is about publicity. To-morrow it may be about shipping, or it may be about munitions or equipment. I saw in a leading newspaper yesterday that the limiting factor in our fight to-day was not man-power but equipment, and I have no doubt that at no distant date there will be serious debates in this place and in another place about this question of the inadequacy of equipment for our fighting forces. Now the remedy for all this is not to get rid of regional officers. The remedy is to have a real Cabinet based on the successful War Cabinet of 1917. If we have that we shall be able to deal with the various matters, whether they be publicity or shortage of equipment, or ships or food or anything else, as they arise, swiftly and efficiently.
§ I have purposely strayed a little from the wording of my Motion because I wanted to take this opportunity of anticipating and preventing future trouble. It would not be right if the Government imagined that the whole country was absolutely contented with the way in which the war was being prosecuted. The country expects real war pace and real war machinery. The other day we had a Budget introduced in another place, and I am perfectly certain that the public are prepared to pay if they are convinced that there is the maximum effort and the maximum efficiency in the prosecution of 1268 the war. Until we get the maximum efficiency into the organisation of the War Cabinet we shall not have the maximum efficiency or maximum effort in prosecuting the war. As I said, I have taken the opportunity on this, the first controversial issue which has arisen since the declaration of war, to raise these points because it is only by going to the root of the problem and putting that right that we shall be in a position to avoid similar delays arising when other weaknesses are brought before the notice of the public.
§ 3.33 p.m.
§ LORD NOEL-BUXTON
My Lords, while we are dealing with the question of the control of news I want briefly to suggest that there should be a much clearer indication by the Minister of the authority attaching to statements of Government policy. Let me give an example of the ambiguity which has been felt. On September 25 the papers reported Signor Mussolini's speech broadcasting peace moves, and clearly the reaction of our Government to that was a matter of great importance. The Press and the B.B.C. commented on that speech under the heading that "an authoritative source" indicates so and so, giving the impression that the Government entertained no very great expectation that much would come of Signor Mussolini's speech. Another illustration of ambiguity: the B.B.C. yesterday, commenting on the Prime Minister's speech, said that inquiry in Whitehall showed that the Prime Minister in effect had not indicated any weakening of previous statements. Is the public to regard that as an utterance of the Foreign Office? Why comment on the Prime Minister's speech in that case at all? If the Prime Minister himself is not clear enough, does he need any embroidery to tell the public what he meant? That seems to me an important point. The comment itself might suggest to neutrals or even to the enemy that there was some weakening embodied in the Prime Minister's speech.
Personally, I welcomed very much the statement of the noble Earl, Lord Stanhope, and that of the Prime Minister, that our Government were ready naturally to consider any proposals of peace that were made. The statement was perfectly explicit and everyone understood it. Why should there be a comment from an authoritative source, or an inquiry in 1269 Whitehall in any manner? The Government alone know what is possible in regard to peace, and they ought to have a perfectly free hand. The Government know that if they did see an opportunity of peace there would be immense support for any such move on their part. But on this question this is by the way. I feel that, for the information of the Government about what your Lordships' House thinks, a Secret Session would have a very great advantage. Returning to that comment upon Signor Mussolini's speech from "an authoritative source," the public is puzzled as to whether that was an official utterance. The attitude of the Government was of very great moment. Did it mean a considered Government view? Hardly, because the Cabinet had had no time to meet before that utterance was made. Did it mean that the Foreign Minister, or did it mean that only the Press Department of the Foreign Office, thought so and so? It seems to me it was too important a matter for the Press Department to take upon itself to give any colour to a Government statement. To a certain extent it committed the Government in the eyes of neutrals and of the enemy. I suggest that looseness is very unfortunate in regard to statements of such high policy. There ought to be the strictest control of utterances on such vital matters.
The point invites a rather wider question. What is the Government's method of control of utterances on war aims in the propaganda by leaflets? This is an illustration. The Government asked the German people in effect to throw over Herr Hitler, saying that we would deal with any peace-loving Government representing the German people; but a few days later Mr. Eden made a speech in which he spoke of the historic unreliability of the German Government and people as a tradition dating from 1864. I only point out that that was contradictory of the line of action taken in the Government's declared policy by means of leaflets. That is just another illustration of looseness. I should like to express the hope that the Foreign Secretary will not be too good-natured to his colleagues in the permission to speak on such matters of extraordinary importance, but will keep utterances of that kind for himself and the Prime Minister.
§ 3.38 p.m.
My Lords, I had not intended to take part in this debate, and would not have done so except for sundry observations which have fallen from my noble friend Lord Astor in introducing his Motion. I should like to refer briefly to points which he has raised, and first of all to the question of German propaganda. I believe it is always an advantage to give specific cases when you are talking upon such a matter, if one can do so. Only a few days ago a friend of mine returned through Finland and Scandinavian countries and arrived in this country after taking three or four weeks to do the journey. He was in Sweden for very nearly a fortnight. During that time he found the most intensive propaganda, by broadcast, through the Press and through trade. Our people really had not a leg to stand on, because whilst the German nationals have remained by order in Scandinavia, nearly all British representatives, or many of them, have come back to this country in order to try and find service, here or overseas, in connection with the war. He informed me that English newspapers were not procurable at all, and that during that fortnight The Times was only once upon the bookstalls. On the other hand German newspapers from Berlin—the Tageblatt and others—were obtainable on the morning of publication and were all on the bookstalls.
My noble friend says they are much nearer. It is perfectly true that they are nearer, but it is quite wrong that German newspapers should be obtainable every morning full of German propaganda and that English newspapers should not be obtainable unless they are a week or ten days or even a fortnight old. In response to that remark I might also suggest that there is no war area between this country and Scandinavia over which our aeroplanes could not fly and take newspapers the same day, in the same way that Berlin newspapers are sent by air to Sweden. I only suggest to my noble friend the Minister of Information that there is a country which is being flooded with German propaganda in every direction. As far as trade is concerned, the 1271 Germans are practically forcing their trade upon the Scandinavian countries through the means of barter. They have got no funds wherewith to buy direct and so they are forcing their trade by means of barter, because the export trade of this country to Sweden is either not being fostered or is being interfered with. I mention that particular point and that is all I propose to say with regard to propaganda, but at least there is one set of countries which are immensely important in this war and which ought to have special consideration at the present time in regard to propaganda and to trade.
The other point which occurred to me when my noble friend was speaking was with regard to the War Cabinet. I would like to support whole-heartedly every word he said in that connection. Yesterday afternoon—I hope this is not a breach of privilege—I sat in the House of Commons in the Peers' Gallery and listened to the replies to some sixty or seventy questions on an Order Paper which contained 110 questions. There sitting on the Front Bench were Cabinet Ministers replying to questions, many of which were, to a large extent, of a parish-pump nature, when they ought to have been sitting in their Departments dealing with the many problems of most vital importance in the great war in which we are concerned at the present moment. I hope that the Government will take note of the words which have been spoken by my noble friend Viscount Astor on this matter and that they will consider the great desirability—in fact the grave desirability—of setting up a War Cabinet of a few members of the Government who will concern themselves only with the general policy of the war and not with departmental matters.
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ LORD BIRDWOOD
My Lords, I too, had no intention whatever of intervening in this debate, but listening to the speeches which have been made I was impressed more than ever by the vital importance to the country of doing everything we can to help ourselves in the way of propaganda. I believe we shall never be forgiven if we lose any opportunity that is offered to us of getting all the propaganda possible across to Germany. There is an establishment in this country which can give very considerable help, 1272 and that is the International Broadcasting Company. That company, as your Lordships may know, has had up to recently three powerful stations—one at Luxembourg, another in Normandy and a third on the Mediterranean, within a very short distance of the Italian coast. The Germans have been able to bring sufficient pressure to stop the Luxembourg station, but the other two are capable of working and are ready to work day and night.
Their usual work is of a commercial nature, consisting of advertisements and such like, which are listened to by over 300,000 correspondents in Germany. The International Broadcasting Company is, I understand, perfectly ready to help the Government in any way it possibly can to distribute propaganda from its stations. The company can do it and is only too willing to do it. I feel that we shall make a most vital mistake unless we make full use of a going concern that is ready to do so much for us, and I hope that the Minister of Information, to whom I mentioned the matter a day or two ago, will go into the matter very thoroughly and see if he cannot make use of the International Broadcasting Company's help in our propaganda.
§ 3.47 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER OF INFORMATION (LORD MACMILLAN)
My Lords, the discussion to-day on the two topics raised by my noble friends Lord Strabolgi and Viscount Astor has ranged over a very wide area, as indeed the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, confessed. I should like to be given similar generous treatment at your Lordships' hands if I also depart a little from the specific questions on the Order Paper. I do not propose in any way to shirk the particular topics to which those questions are addressed, and I hope I shall be able to give answers that are satisfactory to your Lordships, but there are certain considerations of a larger order which have emerged from the discussion upon which I think I may most conveniently at this stage offer your Lordships such information as I can. Some of the topics—particularly those raised by my noble friend Viscount Astor and in the second part of the observations of my noble friend Viscount Elibank—dealt with the general question of the constitution of the Cabinet. I do not think that from so very junior a member of the Government as myself my noble friends 1273 will expect any answer. Indeed I think in this matter they regard me merely as a vehicle for their questions.
On the particular matter of the Ministry of Information, may I say that the statement made by the Prime Minister yesterday regarding the steps which are being taken for the reorganisation of the Ministry was necessarily compressed, and I should like to take this opportunity of explaining in some detail the new arrangement, because it affects largely the matters which have been discussed here to-day. Under the scheme for the Ministry as originally framed, and to which I succeeded, the publication of information received from the Department and a system of voluntary censorship were associated with the main work of the Ministry—that is to say, the work of propaganda to which the noble and gallant Field Marshal referred. There was no doubt something to be said for this association of functions, but a very little experience showed serious difficulties. The most obvious anomaly was that the Ministry was erroneously held responsible by the public for the adequacy of the information disseminated by it, while, at the same time, it possessed no power whatever to require the Department to furnish it with information. That was a position which I think your Lordships will recognise no Minister could enjoy or indeed tolerate. Accordingly the main alteration which has been made has been to eliminate from the Ministry, all responsibility for the reception and dissemination of the official statements of the Service and other Departments and also, as a consequence, for the Press Censorship.
In peace time the Departments made their own publicity arrangements and they issued their official communications through the ordinary Press channels, with which they maintained close and useful contact. In war time—and here was the practical problem—the number of such official communiqués and also the number of Press correspondents naturally enormously increased, and the provision made under the roof of the Ministry of Information for the receipt and dissemination to the Press of such communications has obvious conveniences and has been appreciated by the Press. Accordingly, it is not proposed to scrap the facilities thus provided, but it has been arranged that while the former relations between the Press and the Departments 1274 are to be restored, all official communications made to the Press by the Departments shall simultaneously be made through the central channel which has been created and is at present in operation. This clearing house for Government communications and Press Censorship will for the future be under the charge of a separate head, entirely independent of the Ministry which will cease to have any responsibility for these activities. I have learned with the greatest pleasure that my friend Sir Walter Monckton has agreed to undertake the onerous task of Controller of the Press Censorship and Superintendent of the News Distribution Department. I am sure that no better choice could have been made.
This rearrangement at once enables a large reduction to be made in the staff carried on the books of the Ministry. Instead of the 127 members of the staff engaged in the News and Press Relations Section, a much smaller number will be required for the restricted work now falling within it, while the Censorship staff of 306 will also be removed from the Ministry. With regard to that apparently large figure on the Censorship side, it is right to point out that the Censorship works twenty-four hours a day, and eight hours' work on the Censorship is as much as anybody could be asked to do. Therefore the effective strength of the Censorship Department is of the order of 100, but in order to staff it and keep it open for the convenience of the Press night and day, it requires, of course, to have a staff in triplicate and that is why the number is so large. The actual number of documents—that is to say, cablegrams and articles handed in—runs every day to thousands and I do not think the staff of 100 is at all excessive for that purpose. However, the responsibility for that staff passes from my hands.
Another important change is in progress. Under the original scheme an elaborate regional organisation, as it was called, was contemplated, and when I became Minister it had already been in part set up. The result of an investigation of this part of the structure has satisfied me that the useful end in view can be achieved on much simpler lines and with a much reduced staff. I am going into the matter very carefully. These changes which I have indicated to 1275 your Lordships involve, in all, 560 members of the staff of the Ministry of Information. The transfer of the News and Press Relations Section and of the Censorship Section as well as the reorganisation of the regional staff, should have the result of relieving the Ministry of approximately one half of its staff. I think your Lordships will agree that in these circumstances, the admonition that the Ministry was overstaffed has been taken to heart and that the best possible effort in a very short time has been made to overhaul it.
Would the noble Lord make one thing clear? He talks of the transfer of the Censorship Department. Where has it gone?
§ LORD MACMILLAN
A transfer of responsibility, not of location. The Censorship Department facilities—it is the voluntary censorship, of course, the noble Lord will understand—which have been provided under the roof of the Ministry of Information, that is to say in the University buildings, will continue there, but they will be under Sir Walter Monckton. They are a part really of the facilities provided for the Press. If I might be informal for a moment, I can explain it to your Lordships in a sentence or two. The large number of correspondents and the large number of messages received, involved, it was thought—this was the scheme originally of the whole apparatus—the provision of a sort of central clearing house, to which these messages could be sent and where they could be handled. It was impossible with such a large number of correspondents, for example, to preserve the comparatively simple method of the correspondent going to the particular Department and there getting his publicity; and the arrangement that was set up has been most acceptable to the Press. I can show you letters which I have received signed by almost all the responsible Press agencies. It was not their complaint at all that the apparatus was unsatisfactory; their complaint was that the news given was inadequate. That was their real complaint, and I should like that to be understood. The complaint was not with the apparatus set up, because it was a very useful apparatus.
Let me explain how it works. When a communiqué comes through to this place in the Ministry it is at once made available to all the Press representatives 1276 who are there. They are congregated in one place and therefore it is not necessary to send it all over the place to the various correspondents. They can go there, and they will get that communiqué altogether and at once, which is an advantage, so that one may not steal a march over another. Then from the mechanical side, the advantage is this, that there have been provided all round the room where the announcements are made, a series of telephone booths, so that the moment that a correspondent receives the Government communication he can go at once and telephone to his newspaper office and get it through without any delay. These statements, of course, do not require to be censored at all, because they are in the actual text of a Government-issued statement and therefore are not for censorship.
But, of course, the newspaper man wants to do a great deal more than that. He also wants to write up the matter. If he prepares an article, he may have no dubiety about it being an article entirely free from any danger of D.O.R.A., and he then has no trouble, because the Press in this country is, at the moment, entirely free from any censorship. If he publishes an article which contains matter which is struck at by the Defence of the Realm Regulations, that is his account and he would be liable to prosecution accordingly. But the facility that is provided under the roof is this; a censor has been installed there and the newspaper correspondent who wishes to produce his article can write his article and step across to the counter of the Censorship and hand it in. If it passes the censor there, then if he publishes it he is entirely protected against any prosecution. That of course is a great advantage to the newspaper man; he takes no risks whatever if the article is passed; and in the great majority of the cases, hundreds of the cases, the article is handed back almost at once. I could give your Lordships figures and details of the very short time that takes, and there has been really no serious complaint about that at all.
If he chose not to avail himself of this facility there and were to send his communication through the post—I am talking now of foreign correspondents—then, of course, it would be intercepted by the regular War Censorship, which is quite a different matter and for which we are 1277 not responsible at all, just as any letter which your Lordships like to write to anybody abroad at the present moment is subject to the general censorship of the War Office and can be stopped and opened and read. We are all subject to that, but that has nothing whatever to do with the Ministry of Information or this voluntary censorship. But the foreign correspondent also has this great advantage, that if he writes an article and wishes it sent to his newspaper, instead of posting it and subjecting it to all the risks and delay by the ordinary War Office Censorship, he can hand it across the counter to the Censorship Department and, if it is passed there, it then goes away in his postal packet and the War Office Censorship has nothing whatever to do with it. These are two very valuable facilities: one, the facility of having the means of utilising the telephones and all the apparatus that exists there, and the other to have at your hand a censor who, if he passes your material, franks it so far as any other censorship is concerned. The Press appreciated that, and when the decision was made that it was undesirable to prevent the access of the Press to the Departments and that it should be restored, it was accompanied by his: that we should retain also what I may call the mechanical facilities on the spot. His Majesty's Government were quite willing to do that, and those facilities will be continued, but the question of the responsibility for the news is quite a different matter.
I now pass to the general matter which has been raised by noble Lords. It may now be asked, what are the activities for which the Ministry will continue to exist? These activities, I have no hesitation in saying, are of the highest value and importance: they will be the functions commonly described by the unattractive word "propaganda." It is exceedingly unfortunate that that word "propaganda" has acquired so sinister a signification, which it certainly does not enjoy in the nomenclature of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, but it has unfortunately, owing to misuse by persons not in this country, I hope, achieved a very unfortunate notoriety. If it be used in the benevolent sense, it is really the work of the Department of which I have been put in charge. This war is in a very 1278 special sense a war of ideas. It is accepted by our people and by our Allies as a crusade for great principles. It is essential—is it not?—that in season and out of season, at home and abroad, our cause should be constantly presented in its true light. This task of presenting and constantly reinforcing our true position affects our home front, our Allies, neutral countries and the enemy. In our own country—and I turn to it first—happily, owing to the freedom which we still enjoy and for which we are fighting, the existing agencies of publicity—Parliament, the Press, the wireless, the cinema and the platform—will no doubt play a most important part. But even at home here there is much to be done in the supply of useful information and its circulation to maintain and strengthen the morale of our own people at home.
Abroad, the field is the world. It is of the utmost importance that we should be able to gauge the mood of other countries, to encourage support for our cause, and to counteract insidious propaganda against us. Here the task of the Ministry is on the one hand mechanical: to ensure that all means of communication with countries abroad are kept working as efficiently as possible, so that our newspapers, our broadcasts, our films and our other agencies of publicity may get the best chance of circulation. On the other hand, the gathering of information as to the state of feeling outside our country, the keeping of a watchful eye upon every movement inimical to our interests, and the preparation of material for dissemination abroad, are exacting, important and delicate tasks which it will be the duty of the Ministry to discharge. I wish it to be the constant effort of the Ministry to keep our case before the world with dignity and veracity. It will be seen, my Lords, that the Ministry is left with no mean task, what I venture to think is really its true task. This will be to supply the intangible munitions of the war, and these munitions may well prove in the long run scarcely less important, scarcely less effectual, than the material weapons of war.
I cannot conclude these observations without paying a tribute to the staff of the Ministry, who have been subjected to so much criticism. I would remind the House that the officials whom I found at 1279 work at the Ministry—not of my choosing—did not seek their own appointments or thrust themselves upon them. They were invited by the Government to lend their aid at the time, before the outbreak of war, when the Ministry was in the process of formation. They responded to the invitation extended to them, and many of them generously abandoned their vocations and agreed to serve the Ministry without any remuneration at all. They have worked long hours and have devoted themselves unstintingly to the tasks assigned to them. It is not their fault—and I stand here as their champion—if the organisation which they have so loyally served has been found to require recasting and we are able to dispense in many cases with their services.
It is not a pleasant task to have to dispense with the service of people who have made great sacrifices to undertake work which they have been told was of value and to which they have given long hours. That task, however, must be discharged, and I must brace myself to do it, but I think it is hard that in addition those who have taken up the tasks assigned to them in that way should at the same time be the subject of obloquy. No better evidence could be given of the desire of the staff not to obstruct but to assist in every way the rearrangement of the Ministry's work than the fact that all the high officials, from the directors downwards, have placed their appointments at my disposal so as to allow me the freest possible hand in my task. I should add that the same spirit of ready co-operation animates the entire staff of the Ministry.
I thought it might be helpful if your Lordships had these further explanations of the future task of the Ministry and of the rearrangement of its responsibility. It is now possible for me to address myself to what I conceive to be the real task of the Ministry of Information in war time—a task which was complicated and rendered difficult by the association with it of certain responsibilities which were unsuited to it and which involved a large amount of this controversy which has arisen—which, if I may tell your Lordships, I entirely understand and do not resent in the least, because I have been one of the first to appreciate it. But I have felt the difficulty of responsibility with no authority attached to it. That I 1280 am glad to say has been removed and it will now be possible for the Ministry to address itself to just the kind of questions which the noble Viscount, Lord Elibank, raised. I have just had in view the point he raised, and the indignation I felt when I heard of the late arrival of our papers, especially in the Scandinavian countries, would have satisfied the severest critics, but it is very difficult to take up these practical questions when the whole time one is concerned with the structure of the Ministry whose work one is trying to do.
I confess frankly—I stand here in a white sheet—that there are many things hick I wish to do and am eager to do, but I cannot get at them because I have to spend all my time considering whether a particular committee is or is not functioning, whether so-and-so could be removed, and other such questions, which, important as they are, are only antecedent to the real purpose of the Ministry and, after all, are not getting on with the propaganda work. I hope that with the rearrangement, which has been effected with the assistance of the War Cabinet, which has been most indulgent to a new Minister in this matter, we shall be able to get the work going and to meet the many criticisms which have been made and of which I am fully conscious. I am addressing myself to these problems with all the ability I have: many of them have been tackled already and some good improvements have been made. It will take a little while, however, until we can overcome some of the mechanical difficulties and also what I may call the constitutional difficulties.
I am afraid I am making too long a statement in your Lordships' House, but I should like to take a few particular points to deal with in answer to the noble Lord's question on the Paper. First of all with regard to the question of who is the Minister who now replies in Parliament for the B.B.C. The constitutional position is really quite simple. Certain of the powers exercised in time of peace by the Postmaster-General under the agreement made between himself and the Corporation have been transferred to the Minister of Information, that is, to myself. If your Lordships would wish to know what are those powers which have been transferred, I have them here. They are those which were contemplated 1281 for transfer on the outbreak of war. They are not very extensive powers. I shall enumerate them.
The first is to prescribe broadcasting hours. The consequence is that the Director of Broadcasting has consulted me on several occasions as to the most suitable hours for broadcasting, and that matter has been most amicably arranged between us. Among other things I was able to arrange for a broadcast at seven o'clock in the morning of news which was much sought after by people who had to go to their work early and wished to get news before they started the day. That was arranged under this power which I possess of prescribing broadcasting hours. I was also able to meet some views of the Press, who thought that the particular hours at which the news bulletins were given were rather unfair to them—rather stealing a march on the evening editions. It is not possible, of course, to satisfy everyone in that respect, but one has to try to keep as fair a balance as possible between competing media of publicity. The second power transferred is to give notice of any veto, either particular or general. I have the authority, if anything is submitted to me that is going to be broadcast, to veto it.
§ LORD MACMILLAN
I think it would, but I should not like to. It is put in quite general terms under the agreement—"to give notice vetoing any broadcast matter, either particular or general." Those are the words. The next is to prescribe conditions for television service. As your Lordships know, the television service has been suspended. Another is to approve employment of an officer or servant who is not a British subject, so I have that grave responsibility in connection with any broadcast. The next is to approve the use of the stations for messages other than broadcasting matter—I do not quite know what that means—and to secure control in emergency. These are the transferred powers and these were transferred to me, and the transfer is in accordance with preparations made in peace time. No statutory powers whatever were required for this. The change has been carried into effect under a supplemental agreement between the Postmaster-General and the British Broadcasting Corporation, which is dated 1282 August 3, 1938, and the notice given to the Corporation on behalf of the Postmaster-General on September 5, 1939. I have looked at this, and noble Lords may take it that they are mere executorial documents carrying out the agreement, with the result that, this notice being given, those particular powers which the Postmaster-General in peace time could exercise passed to the Minister of Information.
Then I am asked what is the present method of controlling the programmes of the British Broadcasting Corporation, including the news bulletins. Since the establishment of the Corporation by Royal Charter more than twelve years ago, that is, on January 1, 1927, the Corporation has been invested with the maximum of freedom in regard to the day-to-day management of the broadcasting service. The position of independence secured to the Corporation, with the approval of Parliament, in time of peace has not been altered by the transfer of Ministerial responsibility to which I have just referred. The Lord Privy Seal indicated in another place on July 28 last that it was the Government's intention that the Corporation should continue to have its customary independence, subject to liaison with the proper Department of Government, and subject to the same requirements of war-time censorship as are applicable to the Press. Consequently the responsibility for the programmes, and particularly those items which have disturbed Lord Strabolgi so much, is not my responsibility. Although I suppose I could exercise my autocratic powers and stop East Lynne, I did not conceive it to be my duty to do that. In fact, I am glad to say I did not hear it. Nor was I disturbed by The Murder in the Red Barn. You see, you always have the privilege of not listening, which is one of the greatest privileges I know in connection with the B.B.C. Therefore, I myself remained undisturbed by these distressing exhibitions, but I really can take no responsibility at all for these things.
It is of course an extraordinarily difficult thing to arrange programmes which will suit everyone. I remember Sir John Reith telling me, when he was Director of the B.B.C., that his postbag every day was an extraordinarily interesting revelation of human nature. It contained probably a thousand letters, saying "Your programme last night was one of 1283 the most delightful and elevating experiences that I have ever had, and I do hope you will repeat it all next week." The other letters contained the most violent vituperations, saying "Why do you broadcast such worthless and discouraging, unpleasant material?" Well, it is very difficult in those circumstances—quot homines tot sententiae. The difficulty is that in matters of taste, of course, there is no absolute standard, and it is impossible to satisfy everyone. But we all have our own, and I think our very pronounced, tastes in these matters, and I am afraid that even I myself must confess that I have not always appreciated the propriety of certain items in the programme. But we have thought it better in these circumstances not to make Parliament or a Parliamentary Minister the arbiter elegantiarum. After all, I should not like to be the person who should say what is to be done and what is not to be done.
It is admirable that we should have had speeches such as we have had from Lord Strabolgi, and from many others in other places as well, because that criticism does reach the B.B.C. It reaches those who have the real responsibility, and who must make up their minds as to the programme. But I think it would be most unfortunate if we had a bureaucratic programme. And accordingly, I would rather take the risk of some items being distasteful to myself, or even to the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, than that there should be dictation to the B.B.C. as to what it should provide. The B.B.C. is most sensitive to public criticism in all these matters, and when it ascertains that something is not going very well I can assure your Lordships that its postbag is vociferous, and it very soon responds to public feeling.
The last point was the point that the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, raised, about the censorship of the B.B.C. The Corporation is, in accordance with the expressed intentions of the Government, subject to the same requirements of wartime censorship as the Press. Its news bulletins are for the most part derived from the same sources as the news published in the Press. To a large extent the information which they contain has been collected in the same ways, has passed through the same channels, and 1284 has been treated in the same manner. The bulletins which the Ministry of Information is enabled by other Departments to issue are placed at the disposal of the Press and of the broadcasting service at the same time and in the same manner. It is fortunate that a like sense of responsibility and careful regard for the national interest animates both the Broadcasting Corporation and the Press of this country. It is therefore possible to apply to both the same principle whereby advice on questions of doubt can be voluntarily sought and authoritative guidance can be given.
The Corporation does not at any time express its own editorial views on current affairs. The speakers employed to give broadcasting talks are subject to the same requirements of control in the national interest as writers in the Press. So that when the B.B.C. proposes to make any statement, or any comment, such as has been made recently on various matters, the B.B.C. authorities can, if they like, come to our Censorship Department and ask, "Will that be all right?" If they are told that it is all right, then they are absolved from any further responsibility. If they do not choose to submit it, and do it on their own responsibility, then it is their own responsibility and they are answerable just in the same way as a newspaper would be for having published matter which they ought not to publish. But we do not control them in the sense of any compulsory censorship. Just as when you read your paper in the morning you may know that you are reading an uncensored newspaper, so also when you listen to the B.B.C. news you know that it is uncensored news, subject only to this, that they are entitled to consult the Censorship Department as to whether it may be proper or not proper to include any particular item, and if they are told by the Censor that it is all right, then they are free to use it without fear.
There were so many topics raised that I fear I am trespassing quite unduly on your Lordships' time. But may I conclude by dealing with one specific matter of which Lord Strabolgi was good enough to give me private notice, and that is the question of the reporting of Lord Zetland's remarks on India in this House? That applies, I gather, to Tuesday, September 26. I have had this matter looked up. The usual amount of 1285 time given to the news bulletin at nine o'clock, which is the news bulletin to which probably most of your Lordships listen, is 15 minutes. The news bulletin that night lasted 18 minutes, and the next night just over 20 minutes; but 15 minutes is more or less the allotted time. On September 26, 50 per cent. of that news bulletin was devoted to House of Commons discussions, and it is perhaps not unnatural that on that night so large a proportion of the time should have been given to Parliamentary news because that was the day on which the Prime Minister made, in the House of Commons, his fourth war survey.
Your Lordships also had the advantage of hearing that in this House from the Leader of the House, so that the matter was common to both Houses of Parliament. That was also the day on which the First Lord of the Admiralty made his survey of the naval war. Accordingly, these were two items of first-rate importance, and the editor of the news section of the B.B.C. on that occasion thought that was as much of the news period as should be devoted to Parliamentary news. Perhaps more attention will be given to the House of Lords now that the Minister of Information is a member of your Lordships' House! I may do what can to promote that, but the excuse, if excuse need be made, was that there was matter in the House of Commons of very great importance and interest which occupied half of the allotted period for news. I would yield to no one in recognising the importance of India at the present moment and of any statement that comes from my noble friend on that subject, but it was with no desire to belittle the importance of his statement that it did not find a place in that news bulletin. It is a very difficult matter to select from among the important and competing items of news those which should be presented on a particular occasion, within the very short time—namely, fifteen minutes—which is allotted.
With regard to the other matter to which my noble friend alluded—Lord Denham's statement with regard to agriculture on September 28, that again was not a matter with which we interfered in any way. I gather from the B.B.C. that, important as that statement was, almost all the material had been quite recently broadcast from the Ministry of Agriculture. It was an important restatement, 1286 but it did not contain anything specially new. I have said all I can on these matters—
§ LORD MACMILLAN
I suppose what the noble Viscount has in mind are the leaflets distributed in Germany. They are produced by the portion of the Ministry which is concerned with propaganda in enemy countries. My relationship to that portion of the work of the Ministry is, as noble Lords will understand, rather a special one because it has some association, naturally, with the Secret Service—that is to say, the methods of approach to enemy countries are not like the methods of approach to other countries, and therefore there are certain aspects of it into which I cannot go; but so far as concerns the mere question of the distribution done by aeroplanes, which is common property, these leaflets were prepared in that Department—the Department of the Ministry which is concerned with enemy propaganda—and copies of them have been made available, most of them have been published, and that is really all there is to be said about that. They have been prepared in the Department and distributed with the approval of the War Cabinet. As to whether they are effective or not, we can only judge from the fact that in Germany it has been made a capital matter to be seen reading one of them, so that they appear to attach considerable importance to them. We have ascerained that there has been a very wide distribution, and many people have thought we ought to do more of it. There is another view that we ought to do less. That is a question of policy on which it is very difficult to pronounce. Now I have covered almost all the matters. There was a reference to South Africa. I am glad to say we have now got a news bulletin going in Afrikaans. That has only recently been established. With regard to transmission to the Indian Empire, there were technical difficulties at first, but we will get over them quite shortly.
One thing in conclusion with regard to the B.B.C. which your Lordships might note. The performance of the B.B.C. must not be judged by its Home Service alone. This is a part of its responsibility which has greatly increased during 1287 the last twelve months, and notably since the war began. The B.B.C. maintain at the present time two overseas services—a world service, running for twenty-two hours out of twenty-four for the benefit of listeners in the Empire and in remote foreign countries, and a European service runing for nineteen hours a day. In these services they are now broadcasting daily twenty-eight news bulletins in fifteen different foreign languages. These are, for the most part, short-wave programmes that can be little heard in this country as they pass beyond our coasts. Neither their service to the country nor the burden which their maintenance imposes on the B.B.C. should go unmarked or unappreciated. I beg your Lordships' indulgence for a very long address, but the topics were so numerous.
§ LORD BIRDWOOD
Can the noble Lord say anything about international broadcasting? That is a matter of vital importance. Some of us heard the German broadcast last night, and if we were to use an organisation like the International Broadcasting Corporation, replies could be sent immediately, and it is vitally important we should make full use of it.
§ LORD NOEL-BUXTON
Can the noble Lord make clear what authority attaches to statements by the B.B.C.?
§ LORD MACMILLAN
You must attach just the same importance to them as if you had read them in The Times, the Daily Telegraph or the Daily Herald—that is to say you take them as statements of importance, but nothing more. It is just the same as if you read in the newspaper, "We understand on good authority." They are treated just as the newspapers, unless they submit a matter to us or are asked to do a certain thing. The position of the news bulletin is just the same as that of the newspaper.
§ VISCOUNT ASTOR
May I ask two questions on points which the noble and learned Lord did not quite clear up? One is about the leaflets. Who is responsible for the contents of the leaflets? Is it the noble and learned Lord the Minister, or the War Cabinet? I was not quite certain. 1288 The other question is about the broadcasting to India. The noble and learned Lord said it was proposed to improve that. Does that mean in the number of languages used, or does it mean that the B.B.C. or the noble and learned Lord is now going to supply the material for dealing with the specific charges which are made by Berlin?
§ LORD MACMILLAN
My Lords, as regards the composition of the leaflets I am afraid I must take responsibility. Some of them were prepared before I took office I understand, and I did not have the opportunity of being their critic. I have seen one or two of those that have since been distributed before they were distributed, and I did make certain suggestions myself upon them. They have also been considered, I know, in some instances by the War Cabinet, but I think I must take the responsibility for them because they are part of our enemy propaganda and they are public documents known to members of your Lordships' House and another place. As regards the Indian matter, I am afraid I shall have to look into that in order to give a satisfactory answer, and if the noble Viscount will allow me to communicate with him outside the House I shall be happy to give the information about this matter.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ LORD ARNOLD
My Lords, as the noble and learned Lord is here there is a matter of great importance to be cleared up. I refer to the answer of the Minister in regard to points raised by my noble friend Lord Noel-Buxton. Are we to understand that such a statement as that which was made upon the speech of Signor Mussolini—a comment as it was called—was the work of some official of the B.B.C. without any reference to anyone else? Similarly, last night at nine o'clock, when the news was given, there was a summary of the speech of the Prime Minister and a summary of the speech of Mr. Lloyd George, and an impression may have been conveyed, and in fact was conveyed, that the Prime Minister was not so unfavourable to the speech of Mr. Lloyd George as some people perhaps might have expected. Then there was this statement at the end about inquiries in Whitehall. What does that mean? To begin with, does it mean that you are 1289 strolling down Whitehall and see a policeman and ask him what the Prime Minister's speech means? Are we to understand that a statement like that is made by some B.B.C. official and broadcast to millions of people in the country without any higher authority? The people who listened to such a statement do not know whether it has any real authority, but they naturally think it does give an official interpretation of the Prime Minister's meaning. The matter is one of incomparable importance, and I want to be clear from the Minister as to whether these statements are put in by some officials of the B.B.C. without reference to any higher authority. If that is so then the practice ought to be stopped at once.
§ 4.34 p.m.
§ LORD MACMILLAN
My Lords, I am in a little difficulty in replying to the points raised with regard to Signor Mussolini's speech and the Prime Minister's because I did not have notice of these particular questions. If I had had notice I would have looked them up. My answer was quite a general one. When anything is submitted by the B.B.C. to the Ministry of Information the Ministry of Information is entitled to say, "You shall or shall not publish that." There is a right of veto, but the Ministry is not conversant with all that they publish, and whether or not in these particular instances they saw the news section I honestly do not know, but they may have. The general policy is this, that we do not control their news bulletins any more than we control any news bulletin in the newspapers, subject only to this, that they must publish anything that the Government requires them to publish and that we will censor for them anything they desire us to censor. If a statement is made in a newspaper that "it has been ascertained in authoritative quarters," or something of that kind, we take that for what it is worth, and the fact that something is stated by the B.B.C. ought not to give it any more authority than the authority of a responsible newspaper, because the B.B.C., after all, is only a vehicle of publicity like anything else. It is true it is thought in some quarters to have a much more responsible position.
The broad fact which people in the country should understand is that the B.B.C. in this country is independent. 1290 Many people think that it is an organ of the Government, but it is not, and I think it undesirable that it should be, or that we should dictate to the B.B.C. what news they will give and what they should state. I think I appreciate the point which both noble Lords have brought to my attention, but although I cannot at the moment answer the specific case which has been referred to I will look into it and consult with the Director of the B.B.C. upon the complaint. I appreciate that it is a most important matter, but I would like to make it clear once more that we do not fetter the B.B.C. any more than we wish to fetter the Press. I think it would be undesirable to do so. If we did we would acquire a responsibility which would be of a very dangerous character.
§ 4.36 p.m.
My Lords, out of respect to my noble friend Lord Snell, who has another Motion down, I do not propose to press the demand for Papers, otherwise I would ask your Lordships to support me if necessary to a Division. I also refrain from pressing for Papers out of sympathy for the noble and learned Lord, and if he would allow me to do so, I include also Lord Camrose. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Macmillan, and the noble Lord, Lord Camrose, have obviously inherited a hopeless muddle of unpreparedness and inefficiency; they are trying to put that right and we all wish them God-speed in doing so. In this connection I am reminded of what was said by the historic sergeant when presented with a new batch of recruits during the last war. His remark was: "Thank God we have got a Navy."
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.
§ VISCOUNT ASTOR
My Lords, as the matter in my Motion has been dealt with, I beg leave to withdraw it.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.