HL Deb 06 October 1942 vol 124 cc543-9

LORD MARLEY had given Notice that he would ask His Majesty's Government the conditions under which Mr. Arnold Lunn is now in America; what arrangements were made for his exit permit; whether the United States authorities were requested to grant him a visa; whether he was given a priority passage on the Clipper plane; what arrangements were made for the supply of dollars and whether he signed an agreement to return to the United Kingdom if requested by the British Ambassador; and also move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I put down this Motion not only in connexion with the individual named in the Motion, but in the interests of British-American relations. The people who go to America in these days are not only to be judged in themselves but, I venture to suggest, we must take into account American public opinion of those people. We cannot live, as we did centuries ago, in a vacuum. The world has shrunk. We are very much more closely connected with many other nations and people, and above all, in this war the connexion has become closer than ever before. Indeed unless that connexion is maintained, the common task of the United Nations in winning the war may be interfered with. The American people are very democratic-minded. They do not call themselves democratic-minded; they do not shout about it; but I think that in no country in the world are the forms and bases of popular government so widely discussed and so thoroughly understood. It is interesting to see how American people do discuss and talk over and examine what we in this country tend largely to take for granted. Ideas of free government institutions are very strongly supported in the United States. I put down the Motion in the form I have done so as to give the Government an opportunity of knowing exactly what is necessary to be explained to the United States in view of the criticism which comes from people over there on this particular visit.

Here let me say a word about the regular officials. Directly a man is appointed as a Government official his speeches and the interviews he gives take on a much greater importance, and, as a rule, a Government official is much more guarded in what he says; he is much more careful in what he says and, therefore, he says practically nothing. What Americans want above all is a very warmhearted and a very open expression of the sort of ideas for which we are fighting, the sort of ideas which animate the people of this country, the sort of equality of sacrifice to which reference has just been made by the Minister of Food, the sort of diminution in the old rights which, historically, no doubt existed here. When I was in America, completely unofficially with no relations with any Government Department, I was able to see the advantage of being unofficial as compared with the much more guarded, much less warmhearted and the much less effective, if I may venture to say so, official opinions which have to be expressed. It is quite clear, for example, that in this connexion the Ministry of Information is divided on the matter. Mr. Brendan Bracken does not like any visitors going over. Apparently his Parliamentary Secretary, however, said a few days ago in another place, that whenever we get someone who appears to be very suitable to give the British message to the American people, the House may count upon it that we shall see that that person is sent to do the good work. That pre-supposes we have a message, and that is not an unimportant factor. But, assuming we have a message, that is the idea of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Information.

Now we come to Mr. Arnold Lunn. I want to suggest that we might see how far he fulfils some of these desiderata for anybody going to America. I can only say that I have received a number of letters, including a not inconsiderable number of expressions of profound anxiety in America, in regard to his visit. That is why I venture to ask whether he was sent officially or not. What is he doing and where is he going? In the most prominent of New York newspapers, a newspaper owned by Mr. Marshall Field, edited by Mr. Ralph Ingersoll, and run by persons who are very good friends of our own country, he is reported to have said that he is on a secret mission for the British Government—that is to say, he landed from the Clipper plane and is reported in inverted commas to have said he was "on a secret mission for the British Government." He then said that Spain, on which he poses as an authority, fears that a victory for the United Nations would mean a victory for Communism; and the suggestion was made in the newspaper that he was going to South America to give in Brazil and the Argentine, and other South American countries, this message—that in Spain it was felt that a victory for the United Nations would be a victory for Communism.

He is reported in this newspaper to have received a priority passage on this Clipper plane. I do not know whether it is difficult to get priority passages, but I understand that the regulations are that persons of an age capable of aiding the country do not go out very easily with priority passages unless they are on Government business. If he is on Government business it seems odd that a man should be chosen who has expressed that sort of view when we consider the attitude of mind of the American people. He wrote a book called Spanish Rehearsal, in which he said that the Civil War in Spain was a rehearsal for a Communist revolution. Of course history has proved that he was wrong and that the Civil War in Spain was a rehearsal for Hitler and for Nazism—a rehearsal in which the actual plans and military formations of Germany were tried out in Spain. We shall not easily forget the bombing of Guernica by German planes as a measure of testing out the efficacy of bombing from the air.

This newspaper goes on to say that Mr. Lunn has a record in written and spoken words which can only cause damage to the Allied cause wherever he goes in South America. The Franco-Spanish Falange is the chief remaining Axis espionage organization in South America. Spanish Rehearsal says the Falange is not Fascist. It would appear that his appointment, if he is appointed for a visit to South America, would be inadvisable in the circumstances. Then this widely circulated newspaper says: That one book alone is enough to defeat the ends of any mission, no matter how well meant. This man has expressed Anti-Jewish views. He said in Pittsburg on December 5, 1938: There is a case against the Jews in Germany. And he went on to say that "Germany has something to teach us" in dealing with these people. This man is Anti-Russian. He wrote in his book: The lot of the common man in modern Russia is worse than it was in Tsarist Russia. That is a palpable lie, of course, but that is the viewpoint he took. Accordingly it would seem that if he is on a Government mission he is not an entirely suitable man to represent a democracy, to represent a free people, during the prosecution of a war for our lives. If he is not on a Government mission, then it would be extremely interesting to know why, holding these views, he was allowed to go over to America and to make this sort of speech. I beg to move.


My Lords, you will have listened with considerable interest to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Marley, in regard to this admittedly unfortunate affair. In the first place I will try to make the facts relating to it entirely clear, and then say that it is desirable that it should be treated with a fitting sense of proportion. The Foreign Research and Press Service, which is a branch of the Royal Institute of International Affairs working under the general direction of the Foreign Office, in addition to its main work of writing background memoranda for Government offices, prepares a confidential summary of the foreign Press. It is therefore important to them to have up-to-date information respecting the attitude of the Press in Allied and neutral countries and to see that suitable arrangements are made for the supply to them of the principal news- papers and periodicals concerned. South America is still very far away and it was thought advisable that some suitable person should be sent out on a mission to that part of the world with the object of providing a general report which should be of assistance to the Foreign Research and Press Service in their work. Mr. Arnold Lunn was selected, and the Foreign Office arranged for the necessary priority to be attained on the Clipper service.

The usual arrangements were made to keep him in funds and I understand that it is not usual for anybody on any sort of mission under Government auspices to be required to sign an agreement to return to the United Kingdom if requested by the British Ambassador. Unfortunately, on arrival in New York, he did not make entirely clear to the interviewing journalists what was the purpose of his mission. No doubt he thought that, seeing that the Press summary which the Foreign Service and Press Service produces is confidential, it was not in order for him to do so. In the circumstances it was not unnatural that the United States Press should come to the conclusion that he was on some kind of secret mission. Frankly there is no doubt to my mind that Mr. Lunn's judgment was wrong and that he should have frankly said what it was that he proposed to do. In any case, in view of the unfortunate publicity which was given to his journey in the United States, it became clear that great suspicion was attached to his tour in South America, and instructions were therefore given to cancel it and Mr. Lunn is now on his way home.

While freely admitting that Mr. Lunn's judgment seems to have been at fault I would strongly deprecate any attempt, whether in this country or elsewhere, to make any capital out of either a man's religion or his political outlook before the war. Any such attempt can only detract from our general war effort and, provided there is reason to suppose that any person employed by the Government is entirely convinced of the necessity of crushing Nazism by every possible means, there is clearly no reason against his employment, whatever he may have said or done before September 3, 1939, or indeed whatever his political or religious convictions may be now. If we acted on the opposite principle we should stultify ourselves by wasting a great deal of valuable time. Whether a man is or is not entirely convinced of the necessity of defeating Hitler and his gang by every possible means is, I suggest, for the Government to decide. But so far as Mr. Lunn is concerned, we have every evidence that such is the case, and I see, therefore, not the slightest grounds, so far as the Government are concerned, for any apologies in regard to dispatching him on this mission, the nature of which I stated frankly to the House at the outset of my remarks.


My Lords, I think that in so far as the decision of the Foreign Office to recall this gentleman is concerned, the answer is very satisfactory. It is, of course, or at any rate it would appear to me to be, stretching the doctrine of pre-war responsibility to say that, whatever a man's opinions may have been before the war, he is suitable for any employment during the war if he has changed his mind. It would seem to be possible suitably to employ a man in another direction but not in the very direction in which the opinions he had held for many years and publicly expressed before the war were germane to the new employment—were vital to it in fact. I should not have thought that that was a wise doctrine to put forward, but, in any case, I was making no accusation against Mr. Lunn. All I was suggesting was that it was unwise to employ a man of these opinions in that particular task.

There is one other point I would mention. There is a summary of the foreign Press which is prepared by the Royal Institute of International Affairs for the Ministry of Information or for the Foreign Office. Copies of part of this are in the Library of your Lordships' House. The librarian told me that, so far as he knows, nobody has ever looked at them. They are confidential, and they are kept locked up in a cupboard. Only a part of them is in the House. I forget what they are called, and whether it is Class A that is in the House and Class B that is not, or the other way round. I hope that the facts that they have been mentioned and that they are in the Library of the House, will cause members to examine these most interesting documents and see how vitally important it is that the right man should be used to secure that the right papers are available for creating and building up this information on foreign affairs. I thank the noble Lord for the courtesy of his reply, and I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.