HL Deb 25 April 1956 vol 196 cc1188-90

2.38 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are contemplating the appointment of an additional Minister of State, Foreign Office, whose duties would primarily be the promotion of factual presentation of British activities and achievements.]


My Lords, the Answer to the noble Lord's Question is, No. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary is responsible for the direction of this work as a whole and he has charged one of the Foreign Office Ministers with special supervision over it.


My Lords, may I thank the noble Marquess for his informative reply? Arising out of the Question, which was motivated largely by the frequency with which in the United States, whence I have just returned, I was asked the question, "Why do you British not tell the world with greater force what you are doing?", [would ask the noble Marquess whether his attention has been drawn to reports in the Press recently about the expenditure of the United States on foreign information promotion. Would the noble Marquess be inclined to recommend to the Foreign Secretary, in implementing the recommendation of the Drogheda Report, that not less than an expenditure averaging £500,000 over the next five or ten years would suffice, that this heavy capital expenditure would justify having one Minister of greater responsibility to preside over the direction of this work in spite of his desire to economise on Ministers?


My Lords. I do not think the noble Lord would expect us to be in a position to match under every head the expenditure of the United States. As regards the Drogheda Report, of course that Report has been frequently considered, and every effort, consonant with the present financial situation, has been made to implement its recommendations. I hope that those efforts which have already been put into practice are bearing fruit. As regards the substance of the noble Lord's Question, I can only repeat what I said in my original Answer, that a Minister is dealing with the matter specifically, under The general responsibility of my right honourable and learned friend, and that it is considered that this is the right method of handling it.


My Lords, with the indulgence of the House, may I ask the noble Marquess whether his attention has been drawn to the many reports in the Press lately, including those from eminent personages. like Sir John Glubb, about the need for better information services abroad, and whether he does not think that this service requires different treatment from what was considered adequate two or three years ago.


My Lords, certainly our attention has been called to these reports, and we are watching them with care and with interest; but that does not mean that we can afford to do all we should like to do in this field. Indeed, I imagine that the amount we could expend on this particular type of outlay is almost inexhaustible, but we have to keep a close eye on it, and we are already considering and putting into operation measures to deal with the situation which has arisen.


My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Marquess whether, in view of what Sir John Glubb has specifically stated about the way our prestige and interests in the Middle East are declining as a result of the enormous propaganda put out by hostile stations, it is proposed to increase the amount of broadcasting that we do to the Arabs, not so much in a propaganda spirit but to show them what we are doing arid what our intentions are.


My Lords, I have in mind the matter to which the noble Lord refers. We have to watch the situation as it is developed there and to adapt the methods that we employ according to the type of comment which is disseminated from, possibly, not always very friendly sources, in order, to the best of our ability, to counteract it. That is one of the matters, and perhaps the chief matter, to which those who carry on these activities have to pay the main attention in dealing with all dissemination of news in the Middle East, as well as in other parts of the world.


My Lords, does the answer of the noble Marquess mean that he thinks the Government consider that sufficient is being done in the Middle East to counter the stream of propaganda coming out from Cairo?


My Lords, I think we are making a considerable effort to deal with that situation, and I hope it is having its effect. Bu.:, as I say, there must be some limit to the amount of expenditure that we can employ i'n endeavouring to counteract what the noble Earl rightly calls the stream of propaganda which is coming out. The question is how we can best use the resources which are at our disposal.