§ Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Motion moved by the Earl of Perth last Thursday—namely, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty for Papers relating to the reform of the Foreign Service.
§ LORD HANKEY
My Lords, my excuse for plunging into this debate is that for about thirty-five years I was very closely associated with the Foreign Office, and in addition, sometimes for weeks or even months at a time, I was working very closely with our foreign Embassies and Legations. Moreover, I suppose there is no person outside the Foreign Office who has had so many memoranda, Dispatches and other documents of the Foreign Services through his hands. Like my noble friend the Earl of Perth, who introduced this Motion, I feel that, whether from modesty or the desire to avoid controversy, the defence offered in the White Paper against the critics of the Foreign Services is extremely lukewarm and half-hearted and does scant justice to their outstanding merits. As the White Paper states, the Foreign Office and Diplomatic Service do not determine policy. But the Government who do determine policy depend upon them for reports, intelligence, information and advice. Their position is like that of the General Staff and just as important. They deal with questions of peace and war. I think I place their responsibility higher than did my noble friend the Earl of Perth. It is my confident belief that whenever the Dispatches and the memoranda of the Foreign Office on the origins of the war come to be published, it will be found that the intelligence given was ample and accurate, that the opinions were sound, and that warnings were given which were by no means always followed.
The White Paper contains no answer whatsoever to the really nonsensical suggestion that our diplomats have insufficient contacts. In any Embassy or Legation an astonishing range of outstanding figures—all the outstanding figures—of the country can be met. They all pass through its portals and many of them are entertained there. To a distinguished visitor the Ambassador can produce any politician of any hue or colour and any expert on any subject. And if the Ambassador's own contacts do not suffice there are all the 962 staff—the naval, military, air, finance and economic staff, the Press Attachés—all of whom have their own contacts penetrating further and further into the finance and the expert life of the country. By all of those means an extraordinary amount of information is accumulated on every aspect of the national life of the country. This is passed into the Foreign Office, which sends it on to the other Departments concerned, and it is really almost more than they can digest.
So much for contacts. Then there are the younger men. The younger men are perfectly splendid. Incidentally they are not out of date. A very large proportion of them have studied such subjects as economics and so forth for what they are worth, and it may be that Lord Ponsonby is right in the way in which he weighs them. These young men are there and they have that education which is supposed to give a new outlook to their work. They work like beavers in their Embassies and if they can scrounge a week-end free they dash off in a motor car as fast as they can to the other ends of the country. Perhaps on their way it may be that they give lifts to the local Tom, Dick and Harry and their wives and children, and they arrive, possibly, in the evening at some mountain but and there they sit up half the night with Princes, professors, poets, paupers, anyone you like, talking on any subject under the sun, from aerodynamics to zoology. Then after a hectic day in the mountains, they return, travelling, it may be, all through the night, and at the Chancery they find themselves faced with a mass of papers of incredible dullness and complexity. That is the way in which we are building up modern counterparts of such men as that great and cultured diplomat Lord Rennell of Rodd, whom I first met a great many years ago on the beach at Nauplia in Greece after an eighty mile tramp over the mountains. I knew him well in Rome afterwards, and in Rome, as in Greece, he could talk to the peasants in the Campagna in their own patois. He had an uncanny knowledge of all their social difficulties and of their general life. I could pursue that theme. I could give you from my own limited experience, innumerable examples of people who are growing up like Lord Rennell of Rodd. It is absolute nonsense to say that the men in our Diplomatic Service have not got the right contacts on social or other questions.
963 I pass now to another, but connected, aspect of the White Paper. I venture to question the historical accuracy of the statement in paragraph 4 thatthe conditions which the Diplomatic Service originally grew up to meet no longer exist unchanged in modern international affairs.Of course it depends to some extent on that word "unchanged." Nothing remains entirely without change. The whole world changes and the Diplomatic Service has changed, as I have been trying to show your Lordships, to meet developments in the situation. But so far as the fundamentals of foreign policy are concerned, I submit that conditions have hardly changed at all. "From Tudor times," says Trevelyan, "England treated European politics simply as a means of ensuring her own security from invasion and furthering her own designs beyond the ocean." Those "designs beyond the ocean" were trade and the Colonies, and the sanction behind our foreign policy was sea power. When sea power was neglected diplomacy failed. For example, in the times of James I, who let down the Navy, [I quote again] "the diplomatic protests of James about the treatment of his subjects by Dutch and Spaniards were laughed to scorn." Cromwell, by way of contrast, restored the Navy. He sent Blake to the Mediterranean and we have been there ever since. Cromwell sent Blake not only to defend our merchants there, but also to add weight to the elaborate diplomacy of the Protectorate.
And so it was down the centuries, until, in 1911, Sir Edward Grey, in his famous address to the Dominion Prime Ministers, said in my hearing:What really determines the foreign policy of the Empire is the question of sea power.It is the same to-day, except that there are changes of detail. The Air Arm is taking a larger and larger part in the exercise of sea power, while the Army, as ever, has an essential part to play in its maintenance. These fundamentals have always been well understood by our diplomats, from those merchants who were our first Ambassadors at the Court of Moscow down to Sir Robert Craigie at Tokyo. They have had to face the music. As the late Lord Salisbury said—I stand now between his son and his grandson— 964 they had often to make bricks without straw. That was to say they had to conduct diplomacy—and this comes right down to modern times—without force in the background. Our Ambassadors well knew that, and I am quite sure that they took very good care to make representations about it. On that matter I do not believe that the Foreign Office or the Diplomatic Service ever failed to issue warnings. I commend that point to any critics who have not been zealous in supporting the provision of armaments and who, when talking of diplomacy, are inclined to pass on responsibility for our troubles in this respect.
But nowadays, says the White Paper, "economics and finance have become inextricably interwoven with politics." Inextricably interwoven with politics! My Lords, they always were. They were in the time of Edward III, when the Flemish cloth weavers, many of them refugees, came over here, and, after I am sorry to say being some of them massacred in London, remained to establish the great wool industry. And it was true in the search for foreign markets for this trade in the Baltic and in the Levant by the merchant adventurers. "All this widespread energy" says Trevelyan, "was taken into account by statesmen of the Privy Council who framed the nation's policy, foreign and economic." These were the Foreign Office of that day. There was no Foreign Office as we know it, but there was a Committee of the Privy Council.
Then again economics and finance were inextricably interwoven with politics in the exclusion of foreign shipping and commerce from South America in 1491 which, later on in Queen Elizabeth's time, led to a packet of trouble. That was the cause of at least three wars, including the Armada and the War of Jenkins's ear, and it only came to an end in 1823, I think it was, when Canning's support to the revolt of the South American Colonies finally settled it. Again in the days of the French Revolution when Barrere dubbed us "a nation of shop-keepers" (a phrase that Adam Smith had used in discussing the foundation of our overseas Empire in 1776). I am afraid I have missed out what I wished to mention, that it was the Navigation Laws and trade rivalries that led to the Dutch wars. These matters were interwoven with politics, too, 965 throughout the Industrial Revolution and the commercial developments of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and especially during the period of depressed exchanges and Reparations which followed the last war.
There is really nothing new in this; it has been developing all the time, and our policy has always been mixed up with trade. The Foreign Office and the Diplomatic Service know a great deal more about these matters than they are given credit for knowing. The best paper that I ever read on the complicated problem of Reparations was by the late Mr. Ralph Wigram, who was most brilliant on the subject; and I could mention some men in the Office to-day who are very good on these subjects. In just the same way, there is nothing new in the need for an understanding of, social problems and labour movements, on which the White Paper dwells. What about the French Commune? What about the revolutions all over Europe in 1830 and 1848? What about the Industrial Revolution, and the modern conflict of ideologies? Did not they call for an understanding of social problems and labour movements? I should like to ask my noble friend who is going to reply whether he can say that our Foreign Office and diplomatic representatives ever failed in recent times to report on and to appraise the relations of these financial and economic matters to our foreign policy.
I am strongly in favour of the changes envisaged in the White Paper, because we can always make improvements; but, for all its merits, I think that the White Paper is a little marred by these false premises. It was not necessary to dim the lustre of the existing Services in order to justify the White Paper. The White Paper has very good purposes of its own, and they peep out here and there. In paragraph 6, for example, it is stated: "What is aimed at is wider training and equality of opportunity for all." That is surely very sound, provided that the efficiency of the Service is not lowered in the process. Moreover, the process has already begun. The personnel of the Foreign Office and Diplomatic Service are drawn from a wider range than was formerly the case. Gone are the days when a young man was expected to have £400 a year, and ten years later £4,000; a year, and the Service is all the better for it. But everyone would agree that a diplomat cannot do 966 his job unless he is acceptable to the foreigners with whom he has to live and work, and that involves not birth or means—although for my part I think that there is more in heredity than it is, popular to acknowledge nowadays—but certain qualities of address, and especially of character, on which my noble friend Lord Ponsonby made some very wise observations. I agree with my noble friend Lord Addison that those qualities have been found in a wide range of people—Mr. Henderson, for example, and, I might add, Mr. Ramsay MacDonald. I think he mentioned someone else as well. On the whole, I think that the White Paper is well conceived to continue this process with the inevitability of gradualness.
That brings me to the constructive part of the White Paper. I very much welcome the proposed amalgamation of the three constituent Services; I have always been an advocate of it. I always used to read carefully the Dispatches of Consuls-General about their consular districts. They threw a flood of light on the conditions in different parts of the various countries, which vary a good deal, and they were an invaluable supplement to the Ambassador's Dispatches. I think that those Consular Dispatches will be more illuminating still when lit up by greater knowledge of foreign affairs. Already the Consular Service is recruited by the same methods as the Foreign Office and the Diplomatic Service, but only a very few of its members are appointed to diplomatic posts. I know that it is possible so to appoint them, and there have been instances of their being given very high appointments. I believe that the present Minister at Teheran was a Consular man, and he is a very good Minister too. Usually, however, they get only the less attractive posts, and only at the end of their career. From that point of view, the, amalgamation will do away with a legitimate grievance and remove a sense of frustration.
One point which is more controversial is the new system of entry, which seems to me to accentuate the defects of the present system, which are the number of examinations and the rather high age at which a young man gets going on his life's profession, as well as the awkward position of an unsuccessful candidate who finds himself landed high and dry at the age of 23, 967 24, or even 25, which will bear very hardly indeed on those whose means are not good. These repeated examinations are apt to produce a deterioration of body and mind which are sometimes more than temporary. Under the new system, in many cases there will be a university honours degree first. That is a much more exhausting experience than is generally realized. Before the would-be diplomat has had time to get over the effect of that, he finds looming ahead of him this new examination, on exactly the same subjects, instead of that respite which his constitution demands. If he has the money, he will go to a crammer, and so steal a march on those who cannot afford to do so, and he will probably do himself no good, because he needs a rest. If successful, he then goes abroad for eighteen months at the expense of the State to learn languages, and, at the end of that time, he has another examination. It is not competitive this time; but his life's work depends on it, as it did on the preceding examinations, but it is not competitive. Nevertheless it is quite a formidable ordeal, especially if he should have the bad luck to be indisposed at the time that it is held, which is something that I have known to happen.
I think that the system is really rather inhuman, and I believe that you will get better results from the 25 per cent. of selected candidates, not because they are better material but because they have escaped the ordeal of repeated examinations. I believe also—and here I agree with my noble friend Lord Onslow, and I also speak from personal experience—that you will not get such good linguists out of this new system as out of the old. Under the old system many of the lads went abroad in their school holidays and the majority of Foreign Office candidates went abroad in their long vacations and "topped up" at the end of the time with a year or two in a foreign country. My own experience suggests that sounder foundations are laid in that way than in trying to cram a language in eighteen months. I think I have learnt five languages, and I put a very great deal of work into them, but I cannot talk one of them as I should like, because I began late in life—when I was twenty-two or twenty-three. I feel sure also that those who can afford it will do as at present and go abroad in the university vacation and 968 steal a march in the battle of life over those less well endowed with worldly goods.
Constructive criticism is not easy, and although I have a plan in my head it is not ripe. But I think the objects are pretty clear. First, to reduce the age of the final examination if possible. That suggests an earlier age for selection. Second, to get rid of the need for candidates from universities to undergo two consecutive examinations on the same subject. I believe it ought to be so managed that all get a university education. I am sure they would all be better for a university education, with scholarships, bursaries, and so on. My third point is to enable all prospective members of the Foreign Service to start the study of languages abroad at an earlier age. I should like myself to add a fourth desideratum, and that is to facilitate and encourage study at foreign universities, perhaps by exchange for a year. During the Paris Peace Conference I was asked to make suggestions for the organization of the League of Nations, and one of those I made was for the establishment of a League of Nations university to which the nations should be persuaded to send all their diplomatic cadets. That is a long way off, and my present proposal is an alternative. There are no doubt difficulties, but I cannot believe that it would pass the wit of man to devise a scheme to meet those points. There is no very great hurry about it, but I venture to suggest that the system of entry should be carefully explored and tuned up, if that can be done.
There are a great many points in which the White Paper has very high merits, and there are a great many I should like to dwell upon, but I have been rather long. There is only one other point which I shall mention, because I do not think anybody else has mentioned it, and that is a provision for attaching more representatives of the Foreign Service to the Imperial Defence College. That is very important to the College, and it is even more important, I think, to the Foreign Office. I do hope that that will be carried out. That brings up the suggestion that my noble friend Lord Perth made, that there should be closer association between the Foreign Office and the Committee of Imperial Defence, the Defence Services, and especially the Treasury, the Board of Trade and, I suppose, the Ministry of Agriculture and economic Departments 969 generally. I am sure that my noble friend is right in principle, although I do not propose to dwell upon it at any length, and I sincerely hope that his proposals will be very carefully studied. But I abstain from all comment on the terrible role for which Lord Perth, to say nothing of Lord Ponsonby, cast me.
§ LORD TYRRELL
My Lords, I will begin by submitting a proposal to you on which I may expect unanimity, and that is that we are under a great obligation to my noble friend Lord Perth for bringing forward this Motion because, whether it be accepted or not, I think it will stimulate the interest which the public should take in creating and providing the machinery by which the Foreign Office at the end of this war will be enabled to meet what I think will be very insistent demands, and very immediate demands, for the solution of problems of immense importance, but equally of very great complication. In his speech my noble friend Lord Perth gave your Lordships an admirable idea of the direction in which these reforms should go. I need not take up your Lordships' time by comments on that speech, except to say that I entirely agree with it, and my only grievance is that he has stolen a great deal of my thunder. I should also like to thank the Foreign Secretary for making this very serious attempt at ameliorating and modernizing our Foreign Service. There again the very able and exhaustive speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, saves me the trouble of any further comments. He did one thing which neither Lord Perth nor I could have done, for he gave a wonderful character to the Diplomatic Service. I need hardly say that I entirely agree with him. He also has stolen my thunder, but your Lordships will benefit, because I shall not have to make many comments on the White Paper, except to say that I welcome the very serious effort it indicates and the realization in the Foreign Department that it requires refurbishing and modernizing.
I want to repeat my thanks and appreciation of what the Foreign Secretary has done, but I do not think that is enough, and, as the French say, l'appétit; vient en mangeant— "the appetite comes in the eating" I think these reforms outlined in the White Paper are a very handsome and useful frame, but what their results 970 will be will depend very much on the picture that is going to be put into the frame. There, I believe, they did not envisage the creation of an effective machinery which should be at the disposal of the Foreign Secretary when he comes to deal with post-war problems. My noble friend Lord Hankey was quite right when he said that none of these problems is new. Where they vary is in their intensity. There are times when politics predominate, there are other times when trade does; but we have reached a period in the world's history which I can best sum up by saying that the generation which is growing up now is far more interested in questions of bread and butter than in questions of frontiers. I think that will be the prevailing outlook at the end of this war. Moreover, your Lordships will agree with me that the generation which is growing up at present is far better educated, and therefore more critical, than its predecessor. It will insist on having a policy placed before it, framed and carried out, that meets its wishes to a far greater degree than has been the case in the past
As regards the machinery with which the Foreign Secretary should be provided in order to satisfy these demands, the role that Parliament can play is to lay down the policy and leave the working out of the machinery to the professionals. Perhaps your Lordships will remember that in the course of the last war there was created a Department of Overseas Trade. I should like to state here that not a word I am going to say reflects on the activities of this Department which, within its limitations, has done very good work. In order to create that Department, they cut out of the Foreign Office what was then called the Commercial Department, and created a Department which had one great drawback, which was that it had to serve two masters—the Foreign Secretary and the President of the Board of Trade. Considering that drawback it has done very good work.
As regards the Foreign Office, however, it was deprived in the light of after events, of one of its chief functions, and that was to attend to the trade, commerce, and finance of this country. That in itself was a great weakening of that Office; but it also had a psychological effect—and I do not despise psychology as much as my noble friend Lord Ponsonby did the other day. It had, 971 perhaps subconsciously, the effect of leaving the members of the Foreign Office more and more disinterested in any of these questions. I repeat, in the light of after events, that this separation, if not divorce, between the Foreign Office and the Departments of State that look after trade, commerce, and finance, grew. I remember being struck after the war by the fact—and it is a fact—that Reparations, which undoubtedly were financial in their nature, but which had a political aspect far transcending the financial merits of the question, were outside the domain of the Foreign Office, which occasionally was called in in a consultative capacity. I merely mention this as a fact. Nobody was to blame for it, but the absence of the machinery accounted for it.
Therefore what I should like to see is the re-creation of a Department in the Foreign Office that will not only co-ordinate the trade, commercial, and financial policies of this country, together with its political foreign policy, but will also control them. In other words, it should be a Department that is in a position to equip the Foreign Secretary of the day with a considered opinion when he goes into Cabinet as to whether, in deciding the direction of the foreign policy of the day, political or economic conditions should prevail. There are many occasions on which, from the angle of trade, commerce or finance, a policy is recommended on its merits, but which may have political repercussions abroad that will impair its good quality. I, on the other hand, would like to see a Department which would ensure that a foreign policy, purely political, which may have a bad repercussion on the trade and finance of this country, will be given up in deference to commercial considerations. I want the Foreign Secretary to be equipped with an organization which will enable him to place before the Government, when they settle the big lines of foreign policy, a recommendation in which all these varying, and sometimes conflicting, interests will be carefully balanced.
It has always struck me as very odd that, within the last thirty, forty, or fifty years, for instance, no big loans in large powerful countries were ever floated without the approval of the Government 972 of the day. This country, as far as I know, was an exception. Our relations with the finance of this country were nebulous and spasmodic, but they never were submitted to the Foreign Secretary of the day by a responsible set of officials who could point out to him, for instance, that the lending of moneys to countries whose policies were entirely different from ours might, apart from the financial benefits accruing to this country, be a very dangerous attack on the general policy of this country. The creation of such a Department is still more necessary in view of what we hope to see after this war—a greater internationalization of countries in the sense that, in accordance with the wording and above all the spirit of the Atlantic Charter, politics—that is to say, putting it concretely, frontiers—will play a loss part in the shaping of foreign policies than, again to put it concretely, the bread and butter of the man in the street. What we hope to see is a gradual elimination of the importance of frontiers and the gradually improved outlook which will realize that, in view of the fact that modern inventions are more and more reducing the whole world to the size of a village, the prosperity of one country can only benefit its neighbours whereas the injury done to a neighbour is of no advantage to itself. In other words, after this war I hope we shall see that economic considerations—there again I apologize to my noble friend Lord Ponsonby for introducing economics—will prevail, and largely prevail, in the shaping of our policies.
How that Department is to be manned is a matter for the Government to decide. The only suggestion I should make is that it need not be confined to members alone of the Foreign Service. The Foreign Secretary should have liberty to appoint to it leading members of other Departments and of trade and, above all, of finance. When I look back and see—I have no other word for it—the pernicious part played by what is called international finance in the world, the more convinced I am that we should create a machinery which will enable the Foreign Secretary of the day and the Government to control the use to which national savings are put when it comes to sharing them or loaning them to foreign countries. I mention this matter in order to point out what I consider is the crying need now for the immediate study of this 973 problem of creating a Department that will be best qualified to advise the Secretary of State of the day.
A further contact I should like to see established is a far more frequent and regular contact between the Foreign Office and the Fighting Services. By that I mean that the Foreign Office should be enabled, when it submits its proposals for a policy to the Foreign Secretary or to ask for information, to point out whether or not we can afford a certain policy. My impression is that in the past we have embarked on foreign policies which we could not afford—that is to say, to which we could not give effect. And I think the experience of any Foreign Secretary is the same, that a foreign policy that is not backed by force is a bluff, and a bluff which our competitors or opponents are very likely to call. Take Germany. In the days of Bismarck history will show you that whenever he had conceived a foreign policy, before he gave effect to it he would consult his General Staff and Moltke and would say: "Can you do it or not?" And it was in deference to the advice he received that he would either go to war or remain at peace. That was his main consideration. Perhaps that advice of professionals was overrated in Germany, but I think in this country in the past we have been tempted to underrate it. I think the Fighting Services should have a very strong voice in telling the Government whether or not the policy they have decided upon is within their power to carry out. We may thus avoid some disastrous mistakes of the past. I have detained your Lordships at too great a length, but I may remind your Lordships that some two years ago, when I had the honour of addressing you, I said that the Foreign Office would be the Department upon which the greatest demands would be made at the end of this war, and that therefore it should be an office which should be so well organized as to meet these demands and help the country to have the benefit of a settled, successful foreign policy.
My Lords, having in the remote past served for a few years both in the Foreign Office and the Diplomatic Service, I should like to make some remarks from the point of view of one who achieved no distinction and never had responsibility for anything of the slightest importance. That I think puts me in a position to criticize 974 freely which is not entirely shared by those noble Lords who have borne responsibility. As is so often the case in this House, by far the most important aspect of this debate is something which is not technically under discussion at all. We are supposed to be debating the proposals in the White Paper. As my noble friend Lord Perth very justly pointed out, the really important matter, the direction of foreign policy, is not mentioned in the White Paper. I think he was entirely right in immediately putting in its proper proportions this matter, but to my mind even he failed to go far enough. He pointed out what was wrong with our foreign policy, but did not tackle the truly formidable question of why it is wrong and made only very tentative suggestions for putting it right The root of the trouble is obviously home politics.
We may just as well ignore the sun at noon as ignore this. The great mass of the electors prefer "doles" and subsidies to security and have been paying for it in death, mutilation and disaster ever since they fastened the curse of "doles" and subsidies upon this country. If instead of granting "doles" and subsidies Parliament had put all that money into armaments, we should probably have avoided two world wars and almost certainly have reduced their cost by hundreds of thousands of lives and by thousands of millions of pounds, all of which latter might, if reasonable intelligence had been exercised, have been used for producing fresh wealth and raising the standard of living of the whole country in a world of plenty. My noble friend was concerned with the means for devising a suitable policy, but he did not say much about how such a policy was to be carried out. It is no good devising a policy if it cannot be executed. There is the rub. Foreign policy, as he remarked, depends upon the ability to exercise force, and force requires money. Means simply do not exist for paying "doles" and at the same time maintaining powerful armaments. We can have security or "doles," but not both together. There is not the slightest prospect of the abandonment of "doles" so long as this country is ruled by its present electorate. We are thus faced with the dilemma either of changing our whole political system, and in particular our policy of so-called social security—actually the most insecure thing that could be imagined—or in due course of facing a 975 third world war. Here is to be found the real difficulty of putting before your Lordships a cut-and-dried plan of how a reasonable foreign policy could be put into execution. I should like to pursue this subject, but I fear that what I should say would be out of order.
The function of the Diplomatic Service as I understand it is to keep the Home Government informed of all the conditions in foreign countries which may directly or indirectly affect this country with a view to suitable action being taken in good time. The whole point is contained in these last words—"suitable action in good time." If this is not done the whole function of the Diplomatic Service lapses. Obviously it was not done in the disastrous years which have elapsed since the beginning of the present century. I need not go back further than that. Equally obvious is it that this failure on the part of the Home Government has hamstrung the Diplomatic Service. Long experience has convinced the Diplomatic Service of the uselessness of reporting facts to the Home Government. No doubt they continue to do so but they know the facts will be ignored and they are discouraged. The fundamental trouble is in no way relieved by the proposals in the White Paper.
Coming to more domestic and infinitely less important matters with which alone the White Paper deals, one of the troubles of the Diplomatic Service and the Foreign Office is that by the time a man gets to a position of responsibility he is much too old. All the routine work required can easily be learnt in a couple of years, but at least fifteen years have normally to be passed before he is given responsibility, and he does not get much then. Most of the work too is extremely dull; of much of it one may say that if it were never done at all nobody would know the difference. One of my duties in the Foreign Office was to read elaborate reports which our Consulates in China were instructed to send in. Many of them were extremely well done and must have cost the writers a large amount of time and trouble. I read them through, minuted them and sent them on to the head of the Department, who perhaps glanced at them, initialled them and sent them on to the Assistant Under-Secretary, who did the same. They were then put into pigeon 976 holes pending removal to the Record Office in a third of a century's time.
I note that a good deal of stress is, I think rightly, laid in the White Paper on the importance of members of the Diplomatic Service making contact with as many different callings and professions as possible. I hope this means that the Diplomatic Service will be actively encouraged to do this. In the past the trouble was that no encouragement was given and no notice was taken of it if it was done. A man, if he liked, could make contact with almost any profession or branch of knowledge or study. He was to some extent helped to do so by introductions which his official position enabled him to secure. If he liked he might even write a report about it, which the Foreign Office was normally willing to print and publish. But there the matter ended. Very few people knew, and nobody cared, whether he did it or not, he received no credit for it and the enterprise which prompted him to write the report, together with the report itself, were both alike entirely without influence on his prospects. In these circumstances it is not surprising that very few people made wide contacts.
Then there is the proposal to pension off persons whom the controlling powers at the Foreign Office do not consider suitable heads of Missions. I must say I view this proposal with the greatest scepticism. No doubt it would be highly convenient for the Foreign Office and save them embarrassment if they had this power in addition to the absolute power over the careers of their servants which they already have. They can make or break any man among them at any time, without giving a reason, and I believe there is a general impression that these dictatorial powers have by no means always been wisely used in making the more important appointments. The ordinary passions and defects of human nature are just as rife in the Foreign Office as they are in every other walk of life—no worse, no better. I imagine that there is no Government Department and no big firm in the country that would not be glad to pension off at public expense certain of its senior officials. That the Foreign Office alone should receive this favour appears to me preposterous, particularly at a time when, owing to improved communications, the Government are taking over more and more of 977 the functions of the Diplomatic Service and the importance of that Service is fading. It really hardly matters who is head of a Mission when his principal function is to transmit a stream of messages reaching him throughout the day by telegraph or even by telephone. And his importance is yet further diminished now that members of His Majesty's Government have acquired the habit of themselves proceeding abroad when anything important is afoot and conducting negotiations over the head of the Ambassador—a habit that can hardly lead to harmony, and one which I have reason to believe is deeply resented.
We are given no estimate of what the proposed reforms will cost. I imagine the price will be pretty high. It looks to me as if the whole business were no more than another manifestation of that vague squandermania which has been steadily undermining the finance of this country ever since the politicians realized that in order to secure election they must play up to the ignorance and sentimentality of the voters. I should have thought that the Diplomatic Service was an admirable means of using for the benefit of the State the private fortunes of certain more or less well-off and carefully selected persons. The Diplomatic Service is a service where financial ease will always be useful. The trouble at the present time is that the members are not rich enough. No salaries that the State could think of paying would ever approach the incomes which it is desirable that the Diplomatic Service should have if they are to make the fullest use of their opportunities. This is particularly the case in the matter of making contacts. I need hardly emphasize the far greater potential usefulness of a man who can entertain on a large scale and undertake long and expensive tours by motor. How many men of this kind will be attracted by a Service in which the whim of some official at the Foreign Office may condemn him to pass his life in some remote and unimportant consulate?
With regard to the admission of women, difficulties raised by the question of marriage seem to me so great as to be decisive. The position of the husband of a married woman member of the Diplomatic Service would be intolerable. In all but the most exceptional cases he would quickly become a figure of fun with deplorable effects upon the position 978 of his wife. It has been my good fortune to meet two very charming ladies who were members of the Diplomatic Services of other countries. I believe that both these ladies resigned their appointments on their marriages.
§ EARL STANHOPE
My Lords, I rise to welcome whole-heartedly the proposals in the White Paper. I confess that I view with some trepidation any occasion on which I find myself differing somewhat from my noble friend Lord Hankey. None the less I do feel that my noble friend the Earl of Perth was perhaps rather hypersensitive in regard to the remarks that were made about the Diplomatic Service. I agree with my noble friend Lord Hankey that some of those remarks might have been expressed differently, as Mr. Punch used to say. But I do not read the White Paper in the way in which my noble friend the Earl of Perth reads it. I do not think that anybody suggests, for one moment, that the Diplomatic Service itself forms policy. Of course, that is done by the Government of the day very much at the bidding of the electorate of the country. What the Service does do is that it reports on affairs in the various countries to which diplomats are accredited. My noble friend I am sure will be the first to say that opinion in the capital of a country is by no means the same as it is throughout the whole area. Now although my noble friend Lord Hankey talks about young diplomats chasing across country at high speeds in order to make contacts with distant areas, I would point out that in the case of countries such as Russia, or even Germany, you cannot get far enough in a limited time. Therefore, when my noble friend the Earl of Perth says it is necessary to have the qualities of an archangel in order to be able to fulfil what is required of the Diplomatic Service adequately, I reply that I think the qualities of an archangel are not sufficient; the qualities of a Mercury are also required.
§ LORD HANKEY
My Lords, may I say that a friend of mine who was actually attached to one at one of these conferences, did the whole business in an aeroplane? He went to Siberia and, having exhausted the possibilities of Siberia for his holiday, he turned back to the Caucasus, climbed the highest mountain in Europe and then came back to Berlin from which he had started.
THE EARL OF PERTH
My Lords, may I be allowed to point out that what I said was that I think that if archangels had been heads of Missions during the years preceding the war, there would still have been no substantial change in foreign policy? That I think is a rather different point from that which my noble friend Lord Stanhope is on.
§ EARL STANHOPE
My Lords, I entirely agree. What I really wanted to point out was that according to my reading of the White Paper it is not criticism of the quality of the Diplomatic Service that it contains, but criticism of its quantity. I think it is clear from the speech of the Under-Secretary of State in another place that what is proposed is to make a necessary increase in the numbers in the Diplomatic Service. As was pointed out, in 50 countries you have only 130 diplomats, an average of less than three to each Mission. How can they get about and form contacts all over the countries in which they are stationed. My noble friend Lord Hankey has spoken of a friend of his who flew across Siberia. Well, Siberia is a country somewhere about the size of Canada, and I am sure that my noble friend Lord Bennett, if he were here, would agree with me when I say that merely to fly across Canada would not give you a complete knowledge of what happens in that great Dominion. Therefore I welcome this idea of increasing the size of the Diplomatic Service. Lord Addison talked about a house painter having got charge of affairs in Germany. Whether he thought that if we put a painter or two in the Diplomatic Service we should have a different sort of information to that which we now receive, I do not know, but my own view is that if we had anyone in the Diplomatic Service with the mentality of Hitler, he ought to be sent to Broadmoor.
The only thing I object to in regard to these proposals is that it is proposed that the increase in the Diplomatic Service is to be carried out at the expense of the Consular Service. If your Lordships will turn to the bottom of page 5 of the White Paper, you will see that it is there stated:It will, therefore, be necessary to increase the number of diplomatic officers and to reduce the number of consular officers. It will in any case be necessary to increase the size of the diplomatic staffs if Missions abroad are to be strong enough to make our influence more widely felt, and if officers no longer tied to their desks are to be enabled to—980 and then the paragraph goes on on the next page—extend the range of their contacts. New arrangements will be made for staffing consular posts of lesser importance, and, by regrouping and reorganizing posts and making use of improved communications by air, adequate and effective consular representation will be ensured.If the Foreign Secretary, in putting forward this White Paper, is not satisfied with the information he gets from the Diplomatic Service because of its small size, it seems to me it is no good reducing your Consular Service and expecting to create a better Service as a result. Indeed it seems to me that what you are doing is saying that if the Diplomatic Service cannot fulfil its duties unless it has the qualities of a Mercury—which it has not got—the Consular Service should have the qualities of a Hermes.
There are three different types of consular posts. First there is the consular post at a port where the Consul has to do with clearances of shipping. Then there is the consular post at a place where a large number of British residents or tourists need attention; and there the Consul has to look after the interests of all British citizens. What to my mind is the most important of all consular posts is that in which the Consul has to look after our trade interests. That was referred to in the weighty speech of my noble friend Lord Tyrrell, with which I entirely agree. I have said before that I think it is absolutely essential that if we are not going to have a great amount of unemployment after the war every step possible should be taken to secure increases in our export trade, and I look upon the service of our Consuls as being of immense value in that respect. I should like to see the Consuls regrouped in regard to the positions they occupy and their numbers enormously increased.
My own view, which perhaps is not shared by many of your Lordships, is that our ordinary commercial travellers are perhaps not so good at their work as those who come over here from other countries. We sometimes hear of commercial travellers from Germany, with perhaps More energy or greater powers, who are prepared to translate the prices of the products made in Germany into terms of the cost in the coinage of the country to which they have been sent, and as a result they get trade for Germany which our people 981 fail to get for this country. I suppose I shall be accused of Laving Socialist ideas when I say that I look forward to the work of the Consuls after this war being of immense importance to the private trader. From the mere fact of his residence in the country it is obvious that he knows, and ought to know, a great deal more than a commercial traveller who simply goes round with goods trying to sell them. I look forward to the time when the Consul will be able to advise on the giving of trade openings in the country to which he is accredited. Therefore I welcome the proposals for wider experience in trade, commerce and industry than is perhaps usual in the Diplomatic and Consular Services of the present day.
The examination required to pass men into the Diplomatic and Consular Services is extremely difficult, and young men have to spend the whole of their time in acquiring a very high standard of knowledge in foreign languages, history and so on. Therefore they have very little time to acquire that general outlook which I consider so essential. I well remember sitting on a preliminary selection board for the Foreign Office with the late Lord Cadman. He said to one of the candidates: "Have you ever been into a factory?", and the immediate reply was "No, Sir," very much as if the man had been accused of going into a house of ill fame. The individual who was asked that question was not wearing an old school tie, and in fact was not entitled, I believe, to wear one of the better known brands of old school tie; but it did seem to Lord Cadman and to me to be unfortunate that that young man had not had better opportunities of seeing something of industry, trade and commerce before he entered the Diplomatic Service, if in fact (which I doubt) he passed the examination.
I am now going to raise an extremely thorny subject. When I was in Moscow more than thirty years ago, we were represented by a Vice-Consul, and, when his servant was out shopping in the market, he had to open his own front door. Germany was represented by a Consul-General, two Vice-Consuls and a staff of 63. Was Russia in those days going to say that we looked on openings for trade in Russia as being as important as Germany thought that they were? Obviously not. Not only do we 982 require better buildings for our Consular Service, therefore, but we also require a big increase in staff. With that increase in staff, I want to see increased responsibilities, and I am quite prepared to suggest that that consular staff should be entitled to recommend firms for contracts. I admit that that opens a very dangerous door. We shall no doubt have the honourable Member for Little Puddleton complaining that Mr. John Smith, in his constituency, has not had an opportunity of tendering, and so on.
I know of a case where one of our Consuls was asked whether he could recommend a firm for supplying baths and sanitary fittings for a big hotel which was being put up in a foreign country. His reply was: "All that I am allowed to do is to copy out a list of porcelain manufacturers from a trade list of some three pages, and that will include those who make baths, those who make insulators for telephone poles, and those who make many other things." He was told that if he did that it would be necessary to go to the Consulate of another country, who would be prepared to give names and prices, but that it was desired to go to an English firm for these things because it was thought that they were made better in England than anywhere else. My friend said: "I think that I can trust you, but I shall get into serious trouble if you give me away. The best firms for this work are undoubtedly"—and then he mentioned four or five leading firms, whose names are household words. One of them got the contract, but, if he had not done that but had stuck to the book, England would not have got the contract.
The suggestion opens, as I say, a dangerous door, but I have too high an opinion of the Consular Service to think that there can be any possible foundation for fears on that ground, and I think that we must be prepared to find that certain firms will be recommended and others will not be recommended. I submit, as a further extension of my Socialistic view, that it might be possible to draw up a list of those who have undertaken fairly big contracts, either for the Government or for public bodies, and who have carried out those contracts successfully, and that they should be the firms whom our Consuls in foreign countries should be allowed to recommend. That would have the advantage that, in order to get on such a list, 983 firms would quote low prices for Government and other public work, so as to get the contract, and would be careful to see that their work was properly carried out, so that they should not be blacklisted. That is going far a field, but I submit that the importance of the Consular Service for the export trade of this country is such that not only do we want better buildings and more Consuls, but those Consuls should be given greater powers.
I disagree, I am afraid, with the criticism made by noble friend Lord Monks-well of the proposals for early retirement. The Diplomatic Service is a small Service, and therefore it stands to reason that it is very difficult to put those who are perhaps not of the highest quality into positions which are of no importance. How is it possible to say that a country is of comparatively small importance? A country which, a few years ago, was regarded as being of comparatively small account may suddenly come into the limelight, and we may want the very best man in the Service to represent the interests of this country there. My noble friend Lord Monkswell seemed to think that there was great danger in giving the Secretary of State power to bring about early retirement; but this has prevailed for years past in the three Fighting Services, and, so far as I am aware, it has had no ill effects. It is far more important in the Diplomatic Service.
I have disagreed for a long time past with the retirement of diplomats at the age of sixty, perhaps because I am over that age myself. We all know of Ambassadors and Ministers in foreign countries, ripe in experience and full of knowledge, who have had to retire under the age limit, and I think that that is wrong. It was done in order to facilitate promotion, but I pointed out when I was at the Foreign Office that, if Ambassadors are to retire at the age of sixty or sixty-two, it will be necessary to appoint men as Counsellors who are in the early forties. They have to do their time as Counsellors, then go to a small Ministry, then become Ministers in a more important country, and then become Ambassadors; and twenty years is not very long for that process. In a small post, where there are only three people, there may be a First Secretary who is not a young man, a Counsellor who is perhaps not very good 984 and a Minister or Ambassador. It may be desired to appoint a first-class Counsellor. That cannot be done in some cases because the First Secretary is an older man than the Counsellor who would be put over his head. In the past there has been no way of getting rid of such people. This is a reform which to my knowledge has been asked for in the Diplomatic Service for many years past, and I should like to see it extended to the whole Civil Service. There are cases, as all of us who have been in the Public Service must know, where men have found, sometimes owing to somebody being brought in from another Department, that their prospects of promotion have gone. They feel depressed about it, and eventually, being but human, a few of them sit back and do not do very much more work until they retire on pension at sixty years of age. It is better to get rid of those gentlemen at a younger age. I do not think that it would cost the State a great deal, because such cases are comparatively rare, and the number of people who would have to be pensioned off in that way would be very small.
I welcome the proposals contained in the White Paper for promotion in the Foreign Service. As one who has served in the Service Departments, I confess that the system of promotion which prevailed in the Foreign Office seemed to me extraordinarily casual. We sat round the table and discussed the merits of various individuals, and there was no report on which those promotions could be based. It was done entirely on the knowledge of the various individuals who sat round the table. I well remember one occasion—of course, I am not going to quote the actual countries that came into the question—when we had fitted in all the various recommendations that we were making to the Secretary of State, and we thought we had got all nicely fitted in and the square peg fitted into the square hole. Then we remembered that the gentleman who was going to be appointed to Rumania had married a Hungarian wife, and therefore he was not likely to be quite persona grata when he went to Rumania. As I say, those were not the countries in question; I am giving that merely as an illustration. The result was that all the names had to go back into the hat, arid we had to start our allocation all over again. I think it is essential that there should be 985 proper confidential reports for the Diplomatic Service, in exactly the same way as there are for the Fighting Services. Only then shall we be quite certain that we always get the right man in the right place.
There are two omissions, I think, in the White Paper. Nothing is said of reform of the Foreign Office itself. A former Permanent Secretary of the Foreign Office once said, "Who is this who is writing a minute on this paper? He draws a salary of less than a thousand a year." That was not my noble friend Lord Tyrrell, it was Lord Sanderson—a good many years ago. We have got a good deal past that. But I do suggest that Assistant Under-Secretaries should be given a good deal more power than they have at present. It was said by Lord Monkswell that the number of reports—telegrams and so forth—that pour into the Foreign Office is tremendous. I do not know whether my noble friend Lord Tyrrell got his private secretary to total up the number of reports and Dispatches that are brought in every day. It very often amounted to a pile of foolscap pages from one-eighth to one-quarter of an inch thick, printed on both sides. Those very seldom get to the Secretary of State; it is the business of the private secretaries to see that they do not. But they do get sent to Missions abroad, and I have asked the heads of Missions what they do with them. The best of them said they put them into pigeonholes. Some of them tried to read them, with the result, of course, that they became buried in paper, and they had less time for thought and consideration than was essential for the proper carrying out of their official duties. A very large number—a collection of them—go to the Dominions, and a certain number go to the Cabinet. I should like to see the Assistant Under-Secretaries being each responsible for a block of work in the Foreign Office, and each of them a filter which would allow only the more important Dispatches to go through, a précis being made of the others, which then would be sent to other people.
When I was on the military staff of the Supreme War Council at Versailles we find that we spent so much time in reading Foreign Office telegrams and Dispatches, which all came to us there, that we sent one of our number down to make 986 a précis every day. I always regretted when I was in the Cabinet that the same thing did not prevail there, and that the flood of telegrams which comes to every Cabinet Minister did not go through a filter. There should then be a précis and a reference to where that particular information is given, so that if a Minister or anybody high up in the Foreign Office wishes to look up the actual record it would be quite simple to find it and confirm what is said in the minute. I think that will show the noble Earl, Lord Perth, what a high opinion I have of the Diplomatic Service, because I propose to put a great deal more power into their hands, in order that they should make themselves even more responsible for the information that comes to the Government and, as I say, to filter it and make it easier for assimilation by the very stupid people who run the Government of this country.
That means an increase of staff at the Foreign Office. The White Paper suggests an increase of staff in the Diplomatic Service, and I have suggested an increase of staff in the Consular Service. There arises the question, Who is going to pay? I am afraid that my noble friend the Leader of the House will not welcome the remark that I am going to make. Is it going to be those who are resident in these islands, or is it going to be the Empire as a whole? Not a word is said about that. I am aware that some of the Dominions have their own representatives in foreign countries—one or two Ministers in three or four countries. Is each of them going to have a great Diplomatic Service, similar to our own, in every country of the world, or are they going to unite with us in one joint service? After all, our interests are very much the same. There is no reason why they should not have a representative, or more if they like, appointed to a Mission to look after the special interests of Canada, Australia or New Zealand, but why should not we have a pooled Empire service, with India and those Colonies which are able to afford it paying their share? It is no longer possible to look on this country as a rich country, able to run the Diplomatic Service and the Fighting Services in the way that we have been doing in the past. I submit that that is a matter in which we have got to ask the Empire to take its share. I am well aware that that raises a most thorny question in regard 987 to the responsibility for foreign policy, but, after all, the Dominions are always consulted before any action is taken in regard to foreign policy now, and it merely puts it on a more regular basis.
My noble friend may say "You can recruit for the Foreign Service now, and in fact we do, from the Dominions." We have an extremely able individual, I know, in the Foreign Service now who comes from one of the Dominions. But, after all, they are comparatively few. He may say that this does not affect the White Paper and therefore why should these points be raised now? Well, the question has to be faced some time, and I submit that the time to face it is when you are proposing a big reorganization of the Foreign, Diplomatic and Consular Services. Therefore, while I welcome the proposals in this White Paper, the only criticism being as to the reduction of the Consular Service, I trust that we may look forward to a further White Paper in which those two points, which I suggest have not been adequately dealt with on this occasion, will receive further consideration from His Majesty's Government.
§ LORD GEDDES
My Lords, for fifteen years before the war I as a man of business had a great deal to do in five or six foreign countries, and I should like to place on record the fact that in every one of those countries I found the diplomatic Mission most helpful, always ready to listen, and always ready to make any representations that were necessary to the Foreign Office, and I also found the Foreign Office extraordinarily helpful. I do not know how many times it was necessary for me to go to see the Permanent Under-Secretary on one question or another vitally affecting the commercial interests, or the industrial interests of the country, and sometimes the interests of the country in a more direct sense. Therefore I am not altogether sure that I think all the proposals in this White Paper are wise. When I read it the first time, and saw what was proposed, I thought, "Well, at last, the Treasury has undergone a great conversion, and has recognized the fact that if you want work well done—a fact well known in every big office—you must have a good subordinate staff." I certainly welcome in this White Paper the proposals that a proper subordinate staff 988 should be established. In the past it has really been quite extraordinary to visit Missions abroad and find men of the Diplomatic Service being compelled to do work that was clearly that of a stenographer, typist, or whatever might be the proper designation of the clerical assistant. Therefore I think we have a great step forward here which will lighten the work of the Diplomatic staff.
With regard to the entry, I do not know whether it would be possible, as Lord Hankey suggested, to lower the age somewhat. There is a great deal for these young men who come into the Service to learn, and one does not want them to get to their posts too late. Quite apart from languages and from all the literary subjects in which they have to be examined, there is this great organization, the Empire. You know, my Lords, it is quite extraordinary in going, as I have done, from one Mission to another, and talking to them, to find out how frequently members of our Diplomatic Service were entirely ignorant of what they were representing. They were representing in their view the United Kingdom, but in the view of the country in which they were serving they were representing the whole Commonwealth of Nations and Empire. I have met men in that position who had never seen the Dominions, who had never seen India, never seen the African Colonies—they had no idea what they Were representing, except a derived knowledge which is never the same as that of a man who has seen a place and has contacts with it. Very often I have noticed a great weakness in our representation because of that ignorance of the great Empire and Commonwealth that our Missions really represented. To-day you may at times find reactions from that ignorance in quite erroneous impressions existing in the minds of the people of the countries with which we have to deal. So I would suggest to the Government the consideration of whether it would not be possible, in some way, to increase the educational facilities available for the men going into the Foreign Service.
In connexion with the amalgamation of the Foreign Services into one Service—the Consular, the Commercial Diplomatic, the Diplomatic, and the Foreign Office—I can see great advantages from the Service point of view, but I am not sure that I see any great advantage from the point of view of the man in business who, 989 after all, has a great interest in what the Foreign Service is doing and can do. When one has to deal with a Consul, it is essential that the Consul should know exactly who is who in the town in which he is stationed, that he should be able to speak the language well, and that he should be able to give the British man of business sound advice and information. That takes a long time to collect. It means that a man who is a Consul-General cannot be there in his post for only a short time. It means that if he is going to be of real use to the British community, and to represent it adequately, he must be there for quite a long period. The best Consul-General I ever had to work with was Sir Harry Gloster Armstrong in New York, who was a most extraordinarily well-informed man about everything in that great city, who knew every British person of importance—and many of no importance at all—and who was able to give you any information which was right and proper for a Consul-General to give. In the same way I could mention many others, but that sort of qualification only comes after a long time.
Then you have the Commercial Counsellors. A good Commercial Counsellor is a great help to the man of business—extraordinarily helpful he can be—but a bad Commercial Counsellor is quite awful. We had a very interesting experience in that line—"we" being my business organization—in one country where we were vitally interested on a very large scale. We heard that the Commercial Counsellor was being moved, and I went to see the head of the Mission and said to him, "We really shall hardly be able to get along without the help of Captain Charles." The country was Spain, and I might as well mention his name. In the end, in order that not only we but the other British firms working in Spain should have the continued advantages of Captain Charles's help and assistance and profound knowledge of the country, he came into the employ of one of the companies of which I have the honour to be Chairman. He has served that company well. It has been well worth having him there; but he has not only served his own company but every British company working in Spain. Not only that, but he has served the Foreign Office and the Empire as well. Yet he is no longer in the employ of the Government, and 990 has not been for many years, but he is of great value in the organization of British representation in Spain.
We had another case—a man of the highest quality on the Commercial Diplomatic side who was serving in Germany. For some reason which was quite obscure—though doubtless for some Service reason that was quite clear to the Service—he was going to be taken away, and exactly the same thing happened. He was taken into commercial employ in order to retain the great advantages that his knowledge conferred upon all of us who were working in that country. That man—and the Foreign Office knows well how valuable he was—is now Colonel Robins; he was then Mr. Robins. At the outbreak of this war he was taken by the War Office to organize the Intelligence side of the Staff College which he commanded, and when America came into the war he went to America to help the Americans to organize the Intelligence side of their Staff College. Now, as Colonel Robins, he is Commandant of the School which has been established for the training of people for the occupied territories. He is a man who had specialized in the knowledge of Central Europe, commercially, industrially, with, of course, a certain flavour of the political side. This man could never have reached his position of power and helpfulness unless he had been stationed for a longish period in the countries in which he was at work.
It alarms me somewhat to think that there is going to be a very free interchange of all these highly specialized officers of the Foreign Service. If there be a common entry, well and good, if for Service reasons that is sound; but I do hope there will be no confusion in the higher ranks of the Service between the various jobs that the different men are to do. Head of Mission after head of Mission who had received me with great courtesy and kindness and who had honoured me by talking to me and telling me of his difficulties and successes, laid great stress and emphasis upon the value and help of the highly expert technical knowledge of these officers of his staff, and so I do hope that the scheme outlined in this White Paper does not mean that men of that type are going to be moved about too freely. Of course they must be moved to meet the needs of the Service and as promotion comes along.
991 In the same general branch of the White Paper we have this question of the Consular Service. I am alarmed at the idea that the Consular Service is going to be reduced. I agree most heartily with the noble Lord who spoke a moment ago that the Consular Service at the present moment needs strengthening, that it needs more men of a high standard of consular ability in it. I trust that we are not going back to the unpaid Consuls, the native or citizen of the foreign country who lives on fees. That is a very dangerous type of organization; it is a type of organization which has done much harm in many parts of the world to British trade and commerce, and everybody who has worked in that Department I think will agree with what I have said.
Now if we have these difficulties in the scheme put forward in the White Paper, we have another great difficulty: Where are you going to get the real permanent staff for the Foreign Office? It is not just a chance occupation to be one of the high officers of the Foreign Office; it takes a long experience and it takes great knowledge to fulfil the various functions that are required of these servants of the State. I do not see under this scheme, unless I have misread it, how you are going to get that permanent nucleus if you are to have everybody switched through the Consular, Commercial and Diplomatic Services and the Foreign Office. It would be a maelstrom and there would not be any continuity at the centre. The only alternative is to make a selection out of the people who have passed in under the common entry and detail them to the various branches. Then you are back where you were, with the same heart-burning (perhaps worse) with the same sense of frustration (perhaps worse) and probably not quite the same efficiency. It may well be that purely for Service reasons it is worth while running the risk of having a common entry, but I cannot see how you are going to have really anything approaching a common service over these various fields. The man who is doing consular work has got almost nothing in common with the man who is doing Foreign Office work. It is true that the man who is doing Foreign Office work ought to know what the Consul does. That is important. It probably would be quite a good thing if the Consul had some idea what the Foreign Office did, but that 992 is less important. But they are not interchangeable.
The next point I want to refer to in dealing with the White Paper is this. It is wrong if it were thought to be possible for men really to learn two languages in eighteen months at the same time as they are learning a lot of other things and right on top of an exhaustive competitive examination. If anyone thinks that is possible educationally, well they just do not know the conditions of learning and of getting a permanent hold upon a language. It is not conceivable that that can be done. You have got to begin learning languages much younger, very much younger. It may be possible to finish off two languages, if you have a fair grip of them, in eighteen months, but you cannot really learn two languages in eighteen months so that you can use them freely and do all the other things you have got to do.
This whole scheme might be recommended to us strongly by the Government saying that it will be exactly right for the conditions fourteen, fifteen, twenty years hence, but this scheme is not going to have any effect whatever upon the organization of the staffing personnel or its acquirements in the immediate post-war period unless the war goes on very much longer than any of us imagine it is going to do. What we want, it seems to me, at the present time is something much more than that rather vague line or two which comes near the top of page 4, paragraph 7, as to the Foreign Service staff to be created in the immediate post-war period. That creation of the staff for the immediate post-war period is going to determine the conditions of the Service fourteen or fifteen years later. You cannot get away from the fact that once that body of men is brought in which is necessary for the staff of the Foreign Service during the immediate post-war period, that will set a permanent trend upon the line of development and also on the type of the Service that we are going to have.
It has been remarked that in this White Paper we have very little indication of what the central control of foreign policy is going to be. It is perhaps unfair to ask that it should have been in this White Paper, but I think we are entitled to ask, what is the control going to be? We know that in the years before the war there was practically no real control. We know that, I think in 1937—the noble Viscount 993 the leader of the House will remember it very vividly—because there was no real control in the Foreign Office he and the Foreign Secretary thought it would be better to be outside.
No, I would not accept that. There was control, but we did not agree with the control.
§ LORD GEDDES
There was control which took no account of the facts. We will put it in that way, because we know there were large quantities of information coming into this country from the Services all over the world. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. It is a good pudding if it tastes well and does not give you indigestion, and it is a bad one if it tastes badly and gives you a war. We know, therefore, that there was a bad control of foreign policy before the war and a control that was neither realist nor informed. The other day I was speaking here in connexion with the Air Force and certain proposals came up at that time. I suggested that what was needed was a Great General Staff to get a co-ordination of the Fighting Services. That is necessary for that purpose, but I believe it to be far more necessary from the point of view of giving sufficient weight in the mind of Government to the real defence implications of any foreign policy, and I believe that it is essential for proper recognition of the facts and proper control of foreign policy that we should have a Great General Staff representing the three Services. In the old days the Admiralty was able to give most of the advice that the Government needed. Then came the Admiralty and the War Office, and now it is the three, and three people may not give the same advice, but one Great General Staff would. Therefore I hope that the noble Viscount who is going to reply will be able either now or at some time in the future to give us a picture of how it is proposed to balance the various considerations which go to the making and control of foreign policy.
I have been fairly critical on some points of the White Paper. Many of the suggestions in it are, I think, not really fully thought out and there are great gaps in it. With such a White Paper it is very difficult to say exactly what the future pattern will be, but I hope that before long we shall be told what it is intended to do in the way of organizing 994 an adequate Foreign Service for the immediate post-war period.
§ LORD HARMSWORTH
My Lords, I cannot speak on this question with the wealth of knowledge of many members of your Lordships' House, and I cannot speak of experiences in connexion with our Missions abroad or in the Consular Service, but I have had some experience of the Foreign Office and I venture to join with those noble Lords who have on the whole welcomed the proposals in the White Paper. Some points deserve the very careful consideration of your Lordships' House. One point is the proposal that there should be power to select a very small proportion of candidates without severe competitive examination. I know that is a power that might be abused, but it is perfectly certain that there may come to the public service men of the first quality who are unable to pass through the ordeal of an extremely severe examination. We have embodied in the Constitution so far as it applies to our Foreign Service the very principle in question, because many a time when it has been desired to appoint a man with quite exceptional ability to a very difficult post he has been chosen, as your Lordships are well aware, from right outside any of these Services. We have a notable example of that, if I may be allowed to say so in his presence, in my noble friend Lord Geddes. I was very glad to hear him bear testimony to the efficiency of our Foreign Service.
For myself I want to refer particularly to the Foreign Office. In the course of my political career I have been familiar with five great Government Departments and I have always said that the Foreign Office was on the whole, having regard to the very delicate nature of its work in many countries, the most efficient of them all. Although the production of these proposals is not an admission of inefficiency in the Foreign Service, it is a fact of course that all Government Departments require, and should receive, reconditioning from time to time. This can only be done by Government and by Parliament. We hear suggestions made in this quarter and another of Departmental and Inter-Departmental Committees consisting of members of the Permanent Civil Service. I do not think that is what we want. We want a much closer association of members of both Houses of Par- 995 liament with foreign policy. These proposals in the White Paper do not begin to affect in any way what is our vital need in relation to foreign affairs—that is the framing of an intelligent and intelligible and far-sighted foreign policy. I say this is not a function of permanent officials but an essential function of Parliament and the Cabinet.
It is commonly assumed—we use the language ourselves—that the Cabinet at any given moment is in a position as a body to give a considered and constructive opinion on foreign policy. I believe that to be an entirely mistaken notion. Cabinet Ministers in these days are too fully absorbed with the work of their own Departments to be able to pay the requisite amount of attention to foreign affairs. Indeed in my experience of the Foreign Office I have more than once been invited by Cabinet Ministers before going into Cabinet to explain to them what on earth all the fuss was about in this or that foreign country. They cannot know, they cannot be constantly seized of the vitally important question of foreign policy. The result is that the whole burden of foreign policy—it really comes to this in practice—is from time to time and perhaps generally thrown on the shoulders of the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister.
Some years ago I had the temerity to write to The Times proposing a readjustment of the Foreign Secretaryship. I even went so far as to propose that it should be put into commission and that with the Foreign Secretary there should be associated two Cabinet Ministers of high rank and, as we have come to say nowadays, without portfolio, devoting their whole time to consideration of the major issues of foreign policy. Then there is the suggestion of my noble friend the Earl of Perth about a Committee. I take that to mean a Committee on foreign affairs comparable in prestige and power of representation with the Committee of Imperial Defence. At all events some means must be found to obviate the haphazard, last moment, dangerous decisions of recent years. I should hardly have ventured to refer to such matters in your Lordships' House had they not been so pointedly and courageously referred to by the Under-Secretary of State in another place. Some means must be found of 996 associating Parliament more closely with foreign affairs. In this House particularly, as we have seen in the course of this debate, we have an extraordinary wealth of knowledge and experience with regard to foreign policy, foreign organization and foreign affairs. I look forward to the time when your Lordships' House will exercise even more than it does now or has done in the recent past, a decisive influence on foreign affairs.
§ VISCOUNT DAVIDSON
My Lords, I would not have ventured to address your Lordships for the first time on an occasion of this kind were it not that I, in the somewhat distant past, had occasion to observe the work of the Foreign Office and the Diplomatic Service, while in the very near past I have had the opportunity of visiting no fewer than nine of the diplomatic posts in the Continent of South America. The White Paper contains proposals which, in my view, have been very long overdue. But now they are before us, and in the future we are to have one Foreign Service. My recent experiences showed me quite conclusively that diplomacy had really become only one of the many activities which the heads of Missions and the diplomatic members of Missions had to carry out, and that somehow or other it would be necessary to broaden the basis of experience prior to the enlistment, or rather prior to the appointment, of candidates for the Diplomatic Service, which in the future is to be called the Foreign Service.
I will not go into the details with regard to the proposals of the White Paper, except to support the view which was expressed by my noble friend Lord Geddes when he pointed to the great problem which is to face the country and the Government in the matter of filling in the gap before the new Service is in operation. That is a problem which the Government will have to consider with great care. No doubt, bearing in mind the principle in consequence of which Governorships in the Colonial Service are not appointments to which men entering the Colonial Service can normally aspire—they do not rise beyond Colonial Secretaryships—the Government will recognize that in the emergency period after the war it will be necessary to consider very carefully whether those temporary civil servants now serving in War Departments may not have to be called upon to 997 strengthen the ranks of the Foreign Service for a short period to fill the gap until the new Service is completely organized.
What I would suggest to the Government is this. It is quite obvious that the proposals contained in the White Paper are for a long-term policy. Now most of the countries in Europe, including those of our Allies and other smaller nations, are overrun. It is not practical politics to settle now our representation to those countries after the war. But there is a vast continent where we have normal Missions in countries geographically, at any rate, within reach. I humbly suggest that the Government should start with those countries at once to establish working models, as it were, to try out the kind of representation and the methods to be employed, and to put into practice the recommendations of the White Paper with regard to buildings, increased staffs and increased allowances to enable members of the diplomatic and other Mission staffs to travel in order to make their contacts. I submit that the Government should start at once on that policy, because then by means of the model services which they erect there—only on a temporary basis, it is agreed, because a long-term Foreign Service cannot be organized at once—they will be able to get the work planned and gain experience that is required on all kinds of matters. There I suggest is an opportunity which might well be taken advantage of at once.
And now I wish to say one word about the Foreign Office itself. There have been two plans put forward. There has been The Times plan, which really means that after the war this Government will be headed by a small Cabinet and the Departments will be grouped under the control of one or other of the Cabinet Ministers of the first rank—rather on the lines of the War Cabinet—having superintending and co-ordinating powers over a group of Departments, while the Foreign Office will be demoted to the same level as other Departments dealing with external affairs and will be under a Cabinet Minister who will be, in effect, the Minister of External Affairs. The ether scheme is Sir Victor Wellesley's scheme of reorganization within the Foreign Office. I have a third alternative, if I may very humbly presume to put it forward. It was the noble Lord, 998 Lord Geddes, who in fact gave me the courage to get up and make this proposal. I can see tremendous force in the suggestion about the need for defence playing a very great part in the settling of our foreign policy. Now what is going to happen to the Foreign Office after the war? It either has to be one political Department, responsible only for the advice on foreign policy, which is not in keeping with the recommendations of the White Paper, or it can become a Department which will embrace a great many of the activities now performed by ad hoc War Departments such as the Ministry of Economic Warfare and the Ministry of Information. Further, as Lord Tyrrell has said, it ought also to have a very strong finance and economic department.
These considerations, therefore, have led me to suggest that the future structure of the Foreign Office should be modelled more on the Admiralty than on any other Department. Taking the long view you are going to have a Foreign Service like a Naval Service. You can then have a Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs with, so to speak, superintending Lords who are responsible for ad hoc departments organized within the Foreign Office itself—publicity and information, economics, finance, and trade—in close contact with the business community outside and who are officials of the Foreign Service in close contact with the business community abroad. There would also be, as now, the Political Department. Without going into too great detail, one can envisage the Secretary of State being advised by a Council of men of great seniority, brought back only for a time for the purpose, and later going back, as the Sea Lords go back, into the front line, so to speak, of the world.
That would have the advantage of elevating once again the Foreign Office to the position from which it should never have fallen, and from which it never would have fallen had it not been for reasons into which it is not necessary to enter. The League of Nations made the power of the diplomats less and the power of the politicians greater. But we have to think of the future, and I believe that, if we think along those lines, and if we have the Foreign Office and the Defence Departments grouped together as one division of a small Cabinet—because the tendency these days is to create many new Minis- 999 tries; we have two Ministries dealing with planning, a Beveridge Minister is asked for, and to what size the Cabinet would grow without reorganization we do not know—and forming the great external wing of the Cabinet, then the Foreign Office will once again come into its own, and so much the better. I am grateful to your lordships for the patience with which you have listened to me.
§ THE EARL OF CROMER
My Lords, the claims which I make on the time of your Lordships' House are so infrequent that I feel that on this occasion a few words from me, based on an experience of some thirty years in the service of the Crown, of which eleven were in the Diplomatic Service, may receive a little attention. Before saying anything on that subject, however, I feel that it would be your Lordships' wish that I should congratulate the noble Viscount, Lord Davidson, who has just addressed the House for the first time, and express the hope that we may often have the opportunity of hearing a contribution from him to our debates. My object in rising is to associate myself with all those noble Lords who have welcomed the Motion put down by my noble friend Lord Perth, and on which he has so ably and so forcefully developed his arguments in this debate. At this stage, I do not propose to weary your Lordships by going into any of the details which have already been amply discussed, but I should like to say that when it is stated in paragraph 3 of the White Paper that the Diplomatic Service is not alone responsible for foreign policy, that does imply to some extent that blame could be attached to the Diplomatic Service for certain failures in foreign policy. I do not think, however, that any failures which we have encountered in foreign policy over a term of years can be attributed to the Diplomatic Service; they should rather be ascribed to the lack of heed paid to the information received from our representatives abroad over a number of years.
In passing, I should like to associate myself with the reference made by my noble friend Lord Ponsonby to the regret that we all feel that we have not the advantage to-day of Lord Hardinge being able to address us. He is not able to do so for reasons of health, but he 1000 could have spoken with almost unrivalled authority. In mentioning a member of your Lordships' House who is unable to be here by reason of ill-health, I think I should also mention that I understand that the noble Lord, Lord Vansittart, had had the intention of addressing us, and I am sure that we all much regret that we are not to have the opportunity of hearing him.
I do not wish to take up more of your Lordships' time, except to emphasize the point made by my noble friend Lord Perth as to the absence from the White Paper of any proposal for the formation of some sort of body, either in the form of an additional Department of the Foreign Office, such as Lord Tyrrell mentioned, or as a kind of counterpart to the Committee of Imperial Defence, as a sort of Committee of Foreign Relations. I think that it is some sort of body of that kind which a number of your Lordships, including the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, and the noble Viscount, Lord Davidson, have in mind. It would strengthen the hands of the Foreign Secretary in dealing with the Cabinet and with the country at large. I venture to submit for the consideration of His Majesty's Government that some sort of machinery of that kind not only would be useful at a later stage but could be set up during the war to meet the very point which my noble friend Lord Addison made on the first day of the debate—namely, that it is necessary to have something of that kind ready to face the multifarious problems which will affect people all over the world as soon as the war is over. The experience which the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, has had in foreign affairs will enable him to correct me if my views are at fault, but I submit them in a spirit of the utmost helpfulness for the consideration of His Majesty's Government.
My Lords, I hope that noble Lords will forgive me if I detain them rather longer than I should wish, or perhaps than they would wish either; but so many points of really major importance have been raised in this debate that I feel it would be proper that I should deal with them as fully as I am able. I agree very warmly, first of all, with the noble Lord, Lord Tyrrell, in saying that the House owes a very real debt of gratitude to the noble Earl, Lord Perth, for initiating the debate 1001 which has taken place this afternoon. I am quite certain that it will be of the utmost value to my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary in his further consideration of the reforms which form subject of the White Paper.
It is perfectly true, of course, that there has already been a debate on this subject in another place, but I think that it is no reflection upon the members of that great assembly to say that the House of Lords can make a contribution on this subject which it is impossible for the House of Commons to make. After all, members of the House of Commons look at this question primarily from the point of view of the man in the street. That is a very important point of view, but it is not the only point of view. So far as the House of Commons includes members who have personal experience of diplomacy—and there are some very brilliant members of that type—they are usually men who left the Foreign Office at a comparatively early stage in their career. Your Lordships' House, on the other hand, contains some of the foremost diplomats of our age. The noble Lord, Lord Tyrrell, speaking very modestly, referred to Parliament as if it was a gathering of amateurs who ought to leave the actual working out of proposals to the professionals; but actually, as your Lordships know, the noble Earl, Lord Perth, and the noble Lord, Lord Tyrrell, both of whom we have heard in this debate, and Lord Hardinge and Lord Vansittart—whom I am sorry not to have seen here to take part in the discussion—all of them speak with unrivalled authority and experience of the Foreign Service both at home and abroad. It is particularly satisfactory to the Government, therefore, that this House has given a general blessing to the proposals and has expressed the view that so far as they go—and I would emphasize that to the noble Earl, Lord Perth—they will make for the greater efficiency of the Service; though I must say I noticed that the appetite of noble Lords seemed to have been somewhat stimulated to ask for further reforms with regard to the general organization of our foreign policy here in London. As the noble Lord, Lord Tyrrell, said. l'appéit vient en mangeant. At any rate, that is a matter which, if I may, I will leave to the later part of my remarks.
The reason why these proposals have been brought forward is. I think, now clearly recognized everywhere. They do 1002 not represent a sop to popular clamour they do not represent an admission that the Foreign Service has failed in its duties between the two wars. I am glad that my right honourable friend the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs made that abundantly clear in his speech in another place. There has been, as your Lordships know, a good deal of very foolish talk in recent years, often by people who ought to know better. There has been a sort of suggestion that the Foreign Service is composed of languid, la-di-da young men lolling about in drawing rooms and collecting rare editions. In fact, as your Lordships know, nothing could be further from the truth. Anyone who has worked, as I have and as many of your Lordships have, in the Foreign Office for a number of years will know that, as my noble friend Lord Hankey said this afternoon, there is no more devoted or hardworking body of officials in the world than are to be found in the Foreign Office. If I may give your Lordships one single example, in the first year of the Spanish Civil War the head of the department in the Foreign Office most directly concerned was not absent from his office one single day in the whole of that year. I very much doubt whether any of the critics of the Foreign Office could equal that record. Nor is it, I think, in the least true, as is sometimes suggested, that the Foreign Office is entirely chosen from a small social clique. The most cursory glance at the Foreign Office List would soon dispose of that charge.
But of course the main criticism of the Foreign Service arises, as has been said in this debate, from a fundamental misconception. It is that the officials of the Foreign Office and of the Diplomatic Service are responsible for foreign policy. As the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, indicated, people say, "We are having a catastrophic war and therefore the Foreign Office must be to blame." This most fallacious argument has been already most effectively dealt with not only by my right honourable friend the Under-Secretary of State in another place, but by the noble Earl, Lord Perth, by Lord Tyrrell, and also by Lord Hankey, who gave independent evidence from his unrivalled experience of public affairs, and there is really very little more that I need say about it. The noble Earl, Lord Perth, dealt with this matter at some length at the beginning of his speech 1003 last week. He felt, I think, that the White Paper had not been quite fair to the Foreign Service, that it gave some support to these unfounded allegations. As one noble Lord said this afternoon—I think it was the noble Earl, Lord Stanhope—I think the noble Earl is a little unduly sensitive on this point. If I may give one example, he drew attention in his speech to the last sentence of paragraph 3 of the White Paper, which reads as follows:The success or failure of our foreign policy should not therefore be attributed to the Diplomatic Service alone.He, as I understood it, took that to mean that a large share of blame, but not all the blame, attached to the Foreign Service. He may be right; but I did not read it in that way. I understood it to mean that there was a statement commonly made that the success or failure of our foreign policy must be attributed to the Diplomatic Service alone, and that statement was firmly denied. That was the way I read it. But whether that interpretation was right or wrong, in any case I should have thought that any misunderstanding on this point should have been removed by the speech of my right honourable friend the Under-Secretary in another place, who made the position absolutely clear. Of course, any such suggestion rests upon a complete misunderstanding of the functions of civil servants. As the noble Earl himself said, they are never responsible for decisions of policy. That is the duty of the Cabinet and, to a lesser degree, of Parliament. The function of the Civil Service is to carry out policy. It is, as my right honourable friend said in another place, "interpretive rather than positive." If our foreign policy before 1939 was unsuccessful in averting war, it is the Governments of the day, Parliament, and to a lesser degree the people of this country who elect Parliament, who must shoulder the responsibility; and to try to shuffle it off upon the officials of the Foreign Office is not only unworthy but really contemptible. I hope we shall hear nothing more of that kind.
At the same time, though I think no complaint can properly be made about the efficiency of the Foreign Service in the years before the war—and I would echo the tribute which was paid to it by my noble friend Lord Hankey this afternoon—as Lord Addison said in his 1004 speech, this does not mean that reforms may not be necessary to meet the changing needs of the time. There is no doubt that the character of international relationships has been greatly altered during the last quarter of a century. I see that Lord Hankey will not have that. If I may put it another way, I will say they have been greatly developed in the last quarter of a century; and this change, as I understand it, arises largely from an alteration or development in the social and economic structure which has taken place in varying degrees in nearly all the great countries of the world. In almost every country to-day the State intervenes more and more in the economic life of the community, and production, distribution and consumption are coming ever more under public control. And this tendency, surely, is equally extending to the international field. As a result, the work of those concerned with public affairs, which used to be mainly political, is beoming increasingly concerned with economic matters.
I hardly dare say this in view of the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby. But the noble Lord, who I am sorry to say is not in his place at present, is a Whig, with all the remote and aristocratic charm of a Whig. Listening to him I was reminded of a story of an earlier Whig, Lord Melbourne, of whom it was related that at one time when his Cabinet was discussing a financial matter, which included the discussion of a sliding scale, one of the members of the Cabinet said, "Does it slide up or down?" to which the Prime Minister replied, "It does not much matter as long as we are all in the same story" That slightly detached attitude to matters of finance seemed to be rather like that of Lord Ponsonby to economics last week. Indeed the noble Lord went even further than Lord Melbourne, because he obviously does not like economics and therefore averted his eye completely from the subject. I could not help feeling that his physical proximity perhaps had infected with his pessimism and scepticism the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, who was sitting by his side in the House. Lord Monkswell indeed in his way went further than Lord Ponsonby. He was not against reforms, but he wanted them in exactly the opposite direction from that desired by the rest of the House. At any rate whatever may be true or un- 1005 true in views expressed by Lord Ponsonby, I as a mere Conservative cannot afford the luxury of adopting the detached attitude which he showed in his speech.
I have been driven, as I think the majority of your Lordships have been driven, to the conclusion that politics, economics, and commerce are becoming inextricably mixed. That is the reason for one of the main proposals in the White Paper—the amalgamation of the Foreign, Commercial and Consular Services. This amalgamation has been generally approved by your Lordships during this debate. Indeed, as I understood it, the nob1e Earl, Lord Perth, thought so well of it that he would like to see it extended immediately to the amalgamation of the Colonial Service and the Colonial Office. Perhaps I might say this in passing—the analogy is not complete. The Foreign Service is not an administrative Department; the Colonial Service is. The Colonial Empire comprises vast territories, and the administrative officers of the Colonial Service therefore have to be very many in number. Indeed they far outnumber the members of the Colonial Office—to a degree of something like twenty to one. There are twenty times as many members of the Colonial Service as there are members of the Colonial Office. Complete interchangeability therefore between the two is not really practicable. I do not say that the difficulties of amalgamation in their case are insuperable, but they are obviously very much greater, and the impression I got when I was in the Colonial Office was that the most helpful approach for the moment was the introduction of members of the Colonial Service into the Colonial Office—a va et vient between the two. That is being done.
If I may return to the amalgamation of the Foreign Service and the Consular Service, which has occupied a considerable part of this debate, the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, asked two important questions with which it may be convenient if I deal now. First of all he asked—and this is a question also asked by my noble friend Lord Stanhope—will the projected reduction of consular officers hamper the efficiency of consular work? Lord Geddes also raised that question. This is a point of very real substance, and the situation, I admit, will need careful watching. I 1006 understand my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary believes it to be absolutely essential to remove the present disparity between the two branches of the Service, otherwise, in his view, inevitably there will be numbers of members of the Foreign Service who will spend their whole career in consular work. Were that to happen, the present division between the diplomatic and consular posts would, in fact, remain, and all the advantages of the amalgamation would be lost. I should point out to the House, however, that this reduction in the numbers of consular officers is perhaps more apparent than real because, as the result of the amalgamation, members of Embassies and Legations occupying diplomatic posts will in fact do commercial work to a greater degree than they do at present—rather on the analogy of what takes place in the American Foreign Service. Some of the work which used to be done by consuls will now be done by diplomats. In addition, it is proposed, as the noble Earl, Lord Stanhope, suggested, that there should be a rationalization and regrouping of consular districts to enable easier supervision to be maintained by the various diplomatic Missions in different parts of the world.
My noble friend Lord Onslow raised a second point also of considerable importance. He drew attention to the possible dangers which might flow from the present system by which we appoint to the smaller consular posts, instead of Consuls de carrière, local inhabitants, who are not of British nationality and not members of the Consular Service. My right honourable friend fully recognizes these dangers. On the whole these gentlemen have done their work very well, and I should not like it to go out from this House that they have been unworthy of their trust, because I do not think that is true. But clearly it is not a satisfactory system, and it would be far better if all our Consuls were Consuls de carrière. Already, partly as the result of the war, there has been an improvement in this situation. As compared with ninety foreigners who occupied posts of this kind before the war, there are now only twenty-eight in minor consular posts. But in any case, after the war, it is proposed that we should promote career men from the subordinate grades of the Service into some of these posts. There is at present, 1007 as your Lordships know, very little chance of promotion for men in the subordinate grades of the Service, and it really will give an opportunity for efficient and capable officers to be brought up and put into consular appointments.
There is one other point of substance regarding the Consular Service which was raised by Lord Perth. He drew attention to the importance of changes in Consuls from one post to another not being too frequent, and this point was also made by Lord Geddes. It is clearly necessary to strike a balance, between, on the one side, changing them so rapidly that they have no opportunity of acquainting themselves with local conditions and local personalities, and, on the other, keeping them so long in one post that their energy and their initiative become atrophied.
§ LORD GEDDES
On the contrary, in my experience, Consul-Generals who have been a long time in their posts showed no sign of atrophy of initiative.
That is not likely to happen in a place like New York, which was mentioned by the noble Lord, but it is likely to happen in some of the smaller and duller places. We have all seen cases of it, those of us who have been round and interviewed men who have been stationed in some one place at the end of the world for twenty years. Their energies inevitably become impaired. This is not one of those cases, in my view, where you can lay down any rigid rule. It must be left to the competent authority to decide who should be moved and who should not be moved. I have no doubt that the authorities at the Foreign Office will note what has been said this afternoon by noble Lords, who speak with very great experience of this subject.
Now I should like, if I may, to return to my main theme. Every diplomat to-day evidently needs some economic and commercial training, and one of the main purposes of these reforms is to meet that requirement. It is clear that diplomats cannot, any more than anyone else, be expected to be experts on every subject. If we expect from these reforms to get a Service of Admirable Crichtons we shall be paving the way to disappointment. No one in this country, so far as I know, is expected to be an expert on all aspects of public life, with the possible exception 1008 of the Leader of the House of Lords, who is expected to speak on many and multifarious subjects with complete authority several times a week. But lie is no doubt the exception which proves the rule. What does seem to me important is that every member of the Foreign Service should have a general training, political, economic and commercial, and that result I feel is only possible if we give them a proper grounding in the earlier stages of their career. Later, as Lord Perth said, they will no doubt gravitate to one section or other of the Service, according to their personal attributes. Some will be found more suitable for the political side, others will be found more suitable for the commercial side; but at any rate all of them should have some preliminary training in both branches.
It is in this connexion that I would draw your Lordships' attention to the proposals of the White Paper with regard to entry into the new Foreign Service. Not only is it intended to open the doors wide to able young men from every section of the population—so far as that is not already true—but it is intended to ensure that before they become members of the Service they shall have had some experience of all the subjects with which they are likely to have to deal. First, as has been said this afternoon, they must pass a preliminary test. For this, as your Lordships know, two alternatives, or I would rather call them supplementary methods, have been devised. Method one, which is to apply to 75 per cent. of successful candidates, is an open and competitive examination similar to that for candidates for the Home and Indian Civil Services. In addition it is proposed to try a second method, which is to apply to 25 per cent. of the successful candidates and is based upon selection. The noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, last Thursday, and several noble Lords to-day, warmly welcomed this innovation, and so, I must honestly say, do I. I believe it is going to be most extraordinarily valuable.
It is sometimes said that it takes all sorts to make a world, and it certainly takes all sorts to make an efficient Foreign Service. You need not only men of great intellectual ability and brilliance, you need men with solid horse sense. There should be a place in such a Service not only for diplomats who are skilful at their 1009 office work and in their diplomatic contacts, but also for what may be called "good mixers," men able to get about in the countries to which they are accredited and make contacts and friends among all sections of the population. Those two types, I suggest, are complementary to each other and they are both of them absolutely essential. I know there is a theory in some minds that the adoption of a system of selection will mean a return to the old privileged class. That has not been the experience in the Colonial Service, where a system of selection has been in operation now for over ten years. On the contrary, it is a remarkable fact that the proportion of successful candidates corning from the older universities and from the great public schools is smaller than it was before.
This of course has a bearing upon the question of the Selection Board about which Lord Addison asked a question which perhaps I might answer now. He asked if it was to be composed entirely of diplomats. It is not. It will be composed of the Ordinary Civil Service Commissioners, who examine other candidates for the Civil Service, with the addition of a few people of special experience, eminent members of the Foreign Office and so on; but the main body of that Selection Board will be the same as that which selects other candidates for the other branches of the Civil Service. I hope personally, and I think probably other noble Lords feel the same, that the method of selection will become a permanency in the Foreign Service. At any rate it is an experiment that is well worth trying.
Now, my Lords, I will return to the further stages of the procedure of recruit-merit laid clown in the White Paper. After the preliminary examination, as your Lordships know, successful candidates will be given travelling studentships at public expense for eighteen months to enable them to study at least two languages abroad and also some history and economics and, further, to familiarize themselves with conditions in foreign countries. The noble Earl, Lord Onslow, and also I think Lord Hankey, suggested that eighteen months was far too short a time in which to learn two languages. Of course it is a very short time to become a master of two languages; but I do not think it is too short a time to get a working knowledge of two languages, especially if, as will probably be the case, many of the 1010 candidates will already have had an interest in these questions and will have taken up some of their time in familiarizing themselves with some foreign tongue. If we make it longer than eighteen months, as I think was suggested by the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, there is a real danger that a new member of the Foreign Service will be twenty-five or twenty-six years of age before he really gets down to work; and that will certainly tend to discourage the more energetic candidates. At any rate, if I may say so, this seems to me a point of importance which must be reviewed again in the light of practical experience of this scheme.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
May I ask one question? Is it suggested there should be two languages, or at least two, and possibly there might be three?
I suppose you might get a situation where a candidate already had a knowledge of what might be called a minor language and would want to familiarize himself with two of the essential diplomatic languages. Anyhow two is a minimum. Lord Onslow also asked whether the Foreign Office would have a right of direction to candidates as to what languages they should use. I can re-assure him on that; they will retain that right. Clearly this is important, otherwise you might have all candidates learning two only and no experts on the others. At the end of this eighteen months the candidates will return to England and enter for the qualifying examination in the subjects they have studied. If they pass they will become members of the Foreign Service; but still they will have to undergo one further year's probationary period. Half of this period will be spent in the Foreign Service, and the other half will be spent in the study of economic, industrial and social questions in this country in the Government Departments concerned. If that is not a comprehensive training I really do not know what is. We have moved along a long lane since the days in the last century when, I have always been told, the eminent Foreign Office official in charge of the selection of candidates used first to ask the name of their fathers and then look at their boots, and if they were both all right he passed the Candidate into the Service.
§ LORD ADDISON
On the question of this most valuable professional course of training, will the noble Viscount tell us 1011 what he thinks will be the average age of a man at the end of it? I am thinking of the five or six years which most other professions require for their training.
I would have thought, though I am speaking perhaps rather without the book, that they ought to finish it by the age of 24 or 25, counting the eighteen months plus the years of the final probationary period.
All of us I think appreciate the force of the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, about the possible hardships to candidates who manage to pass the first test and then fail in the second and are thrown into the street, as it were, at the age of, say, 24. We must all agree that it is very important to eliminate that risk so far as is possible. To a certain extent it will be countered by the abolition of the preliminary Selection Board which saves a certain amount of time and also by the simplification of a preliminary examination. That, I think, has a certain bearing on the point made in the debate this afternoon about duplicating examinations. One noble Lord asked how can you expect a man to go in for his Final Schools at university and then have to do another examination immediately after? This new examination will not require any special study and therefore the information that they have gained for their Final Schools at the university should enable them to pass other examinations. I must say I think it would be rather difficult to have two different systems, one for men who have been at the university and the other for men who have not been at the university. That would indeed be differentiating between two sections of the population.
In any case, I think noble Lords who have expressed anxiety about this a little over-estimate the number of cases where the candidate will be likely to fail at the second test. It will only happen in practice when a young man is evidently entirely unfitted by temperament for the Service and that case must surely be comparatively rare, I should have thought very rare indeed. I suggest it is likely to happen more in the case of young men who have chosen method one—that is the examination in which they will have to get in through intellectual ability—rather than those who have chosen method two, which is based on personality. If in fact they have chosen method one they will 1012 have passed the Civil Service examination and they might well be considered, if still within the age limit, for other branches of the public service where their attributes would be more suitable.
It is not a case of dumping. You might have a young man who would be quite admirable at the Treasury although not particularly suited for diplomatic life. I have no doubt the noble Earl (Lord Stanhope) when he was at the Foreign Office came across cases of candidates who were promising young men but who had not the attributes suitable for a career which they had chosen. Even if such young men failed to get into the home Civil Service, the special training they had received should increase their chances of employment in banking or business or the B.B.C., and so forth. Surely, however, hardship to a few individuals should not override the interests of the country as a whole. It is essential that we should not admit men to the Service who from the first have not been fitted for the duties they would be called upon to perform. That has happened in the past and we do not want it to happen again in the future.
Now I come to another section of the White Paper which deals with conditions of service. This has taken up very little time in our debate and from that I conclude that the proposals have given general satisfaction. There was, however, one question asked by my noble friend Lord Addison last week which I think I ought to answer. He referred, and very rightly referred, to the extent to which conditions in the Foreign Service differed from those in the home Civil Service and the Indian Civil Service. He asked who was to determine what were to be the conditions in the Foreign Service and I understood him to say that he hoped this was not going to be the Treasury. Of course the Treasury is responsible for the way in which public money is spent and cannot delegate that responsibility to other Departments, but my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has in fact approved the reforms. He will no doubt note also the interest expressed in your Lordships' House and in another place as to the need for adequate allowances and suitable buildings.
§ LORD ADDISON
May I be allowed to interrupt for a moment? This is a very vital matter. The suggestion I made was, and I read it over carefully myself, that someone, we will say the principal Assistant Secretary at the Treasury, or someone from the Treasury department concerned, should be advised through the Foreign Office by a body of persons capable of advising on the financial matters which really arise, so that the Treasury will have before them in considered form the advice of men who knew the actual circumstances.
I take it That that is what will happen, although whether actually in that form or not I cannot say. The appropriate persons in the Foreign Office will go to the Treasury and explain the special circumstances of the case and then it will be a matter for agreement between them. In view of the fact that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has accepted these reforms I do not think there is any real need for apprehension that he will not be willing to authorize the expenditure for which the Foreign Secretary asks. One other question of a financial character was raised by my noble friend Earl Stanhope. He suggested that part of the cost of the Foreign Service should be defrayed, as I understood, by the Dominions.
I would like to speak mainly of the Dominions. It is not for me obviously to answer in your Lordships' House for the Dominions; but I would say that at present all the Dominion Governments have got Ministries of External Affairs and they have their own diplomatic representatives in the more important capitals. I cannot imagine that they would look with great favour on a proposal that they should also contribute to the payment of our diplomats as well. I gather that the node Earl recognizes that. His proposal went a good deal further and he proposed in fact the amalgamation of the United Kingdom and Dominions Foreign Services. Of course, that raises very wide issues indeed and it certainly is not a question for a unilateral declaration by His Majesty's Government in this House. I should doubt myself, for varied reasons, whether a complete merging would be practicable, 1014 but what I do agree is that the closest possible co-operation between all sections of the British Empire is essential both in the war and after the war. That no doubt will be one of the most urgent questions which will have to be considered at an Imperial Conference directly after the war.
I hope your Lordships will forgive me for keeping you so long; but these questions are all important. There is yet another matter of first importance to a really efficient Service, and that is the retirement of men who are no longer doing useful work. I was glad to feel that, with the exception, perhaps, of the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell—who was answered, I think, pretty conclusively by my noble friend Earl Stanhope—these proposals have met with general approval. It is no reflection upon these men to admit that they exist. In every walk of life people exist who do most valuable work in the lower grades of their profession, but who are not suited by temperament for the higher posts. They reach a certain point, they stick there, and they clog the avenues of promotion to younger and more energetic men. Many of them are themselves willing and anxious to leave the Service, but they cannot do so without a pension. The reform that is now proposed is only designed to remedy that confessedly unsatisfactory state of affairs and I am certain that it will be generally welcomed by all concerned.
I will say only one word about the question of the appointment of women to the Foreign Service. That was touched on only once I think in this debate. It is a question upon which everybody feels strongly. Either one is very strongly in favour or violently against. It is a question on which there are no neutrals so far as I know. I can only say this, that the Committee which considered this matter in 1936 produced a report which, while more or less evenly divided on the appointment of women in the Foreign Service, came down very strongly against the appointment of women to the Consular Service. Your Lordships know that under the present proposals the Foreign and the Consular Services are to be amalgamated. In the new circumstances, the appointment of women clearly must be a matter which needs further consultation and consideration. In any case for the period of the war no candidates are to be admitted to the Foreign Service. My right 1015 honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has promised to set up after the war a committee of inquiry into this question of the admission of women. No doubt, as my noble friend the Earl of Onslow said, the basis of that inquiry will not be merely the interests of men or the interests of women but the interests of the Foreign Service. No other basis would be satisfactory.
So much, my Lords, for the proposals in the White Paper.
THE EARL OF PERTH
My Lords, may I ask one question? Will the Foreign Service be free from any potential interference from the Head of the Civil Service?
I know that the noble Earl did raise it, but I should like to have notice of it. I would point out that, as the noble Earl knows, stress is laid on the fact that this is to be a separate Service.
The noble Earl, in his speech, raised one more question obviously of the very first importance; that of the co-ordination of the Foreign Office with other Government Departments. That, as I think he explained in his speech, is the consideration to which he attaches most importance, and it has really been the main point raised in the debate that has taken place on these two days. It is a question, of course, which, as the noble Earl I am sure would readily admit, raises far wider issues than the other. The White Paper is concerned merely with the internal organization of the Foreign Service. The noble Earl's proposals deal with the co-ordination of the Foreign Office and other Departments. Indeed, they deal really with the whole machinery of government in this country. No one, with the possible exception of Lord Ponsonby, would dispute the noble Earl's contention that, if there is to be continuity of policy and if our relations with other countries are to remain on a harmonious basis, it is essential that there should be the closest possible co-operation between all Departments concerned with international affairs, not only in time of war but in time of peace 1016 as well. As he pointed out, the sphere of international collaboration is steadily widening, and it is likely that, in the postwar international organization which we all hope to see built up, there will be not only political machinery but machinery for defence and machinery of an economic character.
I understand that the noble Viscount, Lord Davidson—whom I was sorry not to hear and whose participation in these debates I can assure him we all warmly welcome—stressed the very great importance of the defence side, and I think nobody would quarrel with him about that. The noble Lord, Lord Hankey, in the very interesting speech which he made to-day—and which I think may get him into terribly hot water with Lord Ponsonby—has shown that there is nothing essentially new about this. He said that diplomacy, armaments and commerce have always been inextricably interwoven, and he gave very powerful examples of this, going back a considerable distance in our history. No doubt we shall all agree that this, broadly speaking, is true. History can show many examples of agreements for military assistance between us and other countries. Equally there are many examples of commerce proceeding between men of different countries—this and other countries—dating right away back to the Dark Ages. I heard only the other day, down in Dorset, of how a little boy grubbing about in one of the barrows which you find there, dug up a little blue' bead which, on examination subsequently, was found to be of Mycenaean design. It had come into that part of the world long before Roman times, almost in Neolithic times. That is a very early example of international trade. At that time, of course, such trade was conducted entirely between adventurous individuals—it was private enterprise in the strictest sense of the term. But I am sure that the noble Earl will be the first to agree that with improvements in the matter of transportation the international machinery for the direction and control of commerce is becoming rapidly more complicated and more centralized. It is assuming more and more the character of trade not between individuals nor even between firms, but between nations.
Indeed I suggest that the world is in fact, whether we like it or not, rapidly becoming an interdependent unit. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Tyrrell, said 1017 to-day that it is being reduced to the size of a village. Efforts by nations to isolate themselves from their neighbours, may, I think, be truly described as a temporary phase, a phase which, though it may very well see us out, is only temporary in the world's history. I think myself that all of us would agree that it will not be able permanently to stand up against the pressure of the economic facts. This country is likely, if it speaks with a strong and united voice, to have a big part to play in helping to mould this vast new inter-national economic machine which will be required in order to manage this interdependent world. If we are to be in a position to do this, clearly our policy must be closely coordinated between the various Departments, not only at the stage of decision when it comes to the Cabinet but also in the formative stage, further down in the Government machine.
I think, if he will forgive me for saying so, that the noble Earl unduly belittled, in his speech, the amount of co-ordination which already exists. There are, as he well knows, not only discussions between Ministers of the Cabinet, but also countless exchanges of views both between officials and Ministers directly concerned a: earlier stages. But, of course, it may very well be argued, and I think it has been argued, that ad hoc discussions are not enough, and that there should be some permanent machinery for the automatic discussion of questions in the international sphere which affect more than one Department at what I have called the formative phase—that is to say before the matter comes to the Cabinet for decision. As the noble Earl has said, suggestions for some: machinery of this character have lately been ventilated in the Press. He mentioned two of these suggestions on the weak points of which he very shrewdly and immediately put his finger.
Take The Times proposal. With him, I do not believe: that it is practically possible to take the control of day-to-day foreign affairs out of the hands of the Foreign Secretary; who is in constant touch with his Department, and hand it over to a Super-Minister who is living and working, as it were, in a vacuum. I do not believe that in practice that would work. The conduct of foreign affairs, contrary to views often expressed in the Press and elsewhere, is not easily handled by amateurs. Such affairs need experts 1018 like other questions. They really need the constant day-to-day attention of a man with long experience of their particular problems. Equally, I think, there may be objections to the suggestions put forward by Sir Victor Wellesley, though, of course, he speaks with immense practical experience. As I understand it, what he proposes—I am putting it very briefly indeed—is that we should entrust the direction of policy to a committee almost entirely composed of officials. That is contrary to the whole constitutional tradition of this country and I do not think it would work. The responsible Ministers must finally bear responsibility, and having to bear responsibility must have a hand in the moulding of policy.
Thirdly, there was the proposal put forward by the noble Earl himself. In effect he suggests—I hope I am not misrepresenting him—the constitution of something approaching a Sub-Committee of the Cabinet—I think he used the analogy of the Committee of Imperial Defence. In any case, it would be something like a Sub-Committee of the Cabinet, which would sit under the Foreign Secretary and comprise representatives of all the Departments concerned. If possible these Departments should be represented by the. Ministers themselves. His intention, as I understood it, was to attain the same object as that defined by Lord Tyrrell; that is to say, to strike a balance between the various considerations—political, economic, financial and military—which are sometimes, as my noble friend Lord Perth said, complementary and sometimes conflicting, and on which some harmonization is necessary if a wise and stable policy is to be produced. Both the noble Earl, Lord Perth, and the noble Lord, Lord Tyrrell, emphasized the need for having on this Committee representatives of the Services. I have great sympathy with that view, because, as I have said before in this House, you cannot have a foreign policy at all unless you have physical power behind it. That is the lesson which we should have learnt by the experience of the last twenty years, and I very much hope that we have learnt it. The noble Earl's proposal has clearly certain advantages over the other two. It is simpler, and it merely involves an extension of the existing machinery of government. It retains Ministerial control of policy. Those are very important points.
1019 The noble Earl also proposed the establishment of an expert economic staff at the Foreign Office. In fact there already exists in the Foreign Office, as he probably knows, something very similar to the expert economic staff which he has in mind. This is a matter to which I think the noble Lord, Lord Tyrrell, referred. Before the war there was an Economic Relations Department in the Foreign Office the functions of which were to maintain relations with the Economic Departments of His Majesty's Government, to direct the supply of economic intelligence from posts abroad, and to advise the Foreign Office on the economic side of their work. This Department lapsed at the beginning of the war, and its staff were lent to the Ministry of Economic Warfare. It has now been revived in the shape of the Economic and Reconstruction Department. It is, of course, already the duty of the Political Departments of the Foreign Office to be informed on the economic, social and other questions of foreign countries which form part of foreign affairs, and to give the Secretary of State advice in which these aspects as well as the political aspects are taken into account. This advice results partly from a consultation by the Political Department interested, or by the Economic and Reconstruction Department, with the other Government Offices concerned. I do not think that the noble Earl had the impression that no such organization existed, but, if he had, he would not have been correct. He may consider—and I think that Lord Tyrrell argued this with great force—that even more elaborate machinery is required.
The noble Earl suggested that the Government should immediately set up a Committee to consider his and other proposals. He will not, I am sure, expect me to give him a definite reply to-day. As your Lordships know, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary is at present in America, and I have not had the opportunity of obtaining his views, much less the views of the Cabinet, of which he must be himself the chief adviser. I can, however, at any rate promise the noble Earl that I will refer the proposal to the Foreign Secretary immediately on his return, and I am quite certain that, whether it turns out to be practicable or not, it will receive the very 1020 real and serious consideration which it deserves.
It only remains for me to thank those noble Lords who have made contributions to the debate for what they have said, and to assure them that these contributions will be of the greatest value to my right honourable friend in his further examination of these important questions. If anything is certain in this very uncertain world, it is that this debate has been very well worth while.
THE EARL OF PERTH
My Lords, we have listened to a very eloquent and sympathetic speech from the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House. I should like to express my great appreciation of it. He has not only personal but hereditary experience of foreign affairs. He has promised us that all the different suggestions which have been made shall receive full and sympathetic consideration. There is only one point which I should like to make. In the closing part of his speech, he referred to the centralization in London of our foreign policy. I quite understand that I can have no answer on that point to-day, particularly in the absence of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who, if I may say so, is doing admirable work in another place—America—and also because questions affecting the machinery of government are extremely difficult and can be dealt with only after considerable thought. I feel sure, however, that the noble Viscount will forgive me if I do not abandon the idea altogether at this stage. I hope very much that after the Foreign Secretary returns the Government may be able to announce the formation of a Committee. If so, I shall be very happy; but, if this does not happen, I attach so much importance to this problem that I should like to give the noble Viscount notice that, if some satisfactory answer is not given, I intend to open the question again, either by way of a fresh Motion or by a question in your Lordships' House. Meanwhile, I ask leave to withdraw my present Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.