HL Deb 06 February 1957 vol 201 cc564-98

4.10 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, I take it that we now resume the debate on the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Strang, and I rise to support him most strongly, as others have done, and to thank him for having brought this matter again before your Lordships' House. I am a little surprised that the list of noble Lords who intend to speak on this Motion is not far longer than it is, because this matter seems to me, as it always has seemed, a matter of prime importance—possibly the most important with which the Government have to deal. As your Lordships know, it is over two years since we discussed it in detail on the Motion of my noble friend Lord Birdwood; but, apart from that major debate, this subject has in various forms cropped up and, if I may say so, surfaced at various times and in various guises. There has been no occasion on which I or one of those who think like me have failed to take the opportunity to ask the Government what they are going to do to increase overseas information and all that it implies. We have, I am afraid, not made very much progress. We have had little success; we have had blunt negatives time after time, in terms varying from the evasive to almost the abusive.

I am not going to cover the ground which has been gone over to-day but I cannot refrain from again underlining the extreme disparity between the expenditure of £1,500 million on instruments of war, death and destruction, and the expenditure of a quarter of 1 per cent. of the national expenditure on overseas propaganda. "Propaganda", as a word, has an unfortunate aroma about it, presumably because we were subjected to most unpleasant propaganda during the last war. I do nor believe that any of your Lordships, in principle, and particularly those who are concerned with the composition of your Lordships' House, object to the word "propagate", but this version of the word "propaganda" seems to have something less attractive about it.

I beg Her Majesty's Government' to make a reassessment of the balance which we hold between physical and psychological warfare. Psychological warfare is rather a term of war, but it may be adopted and adapted to many good uses in peace time. I think the time has really come when no country, rot even Russia or the United States of America, can fill the place which this country used to hold 150 or 200 years ago in a world based on physical power. Military power is no longer, I suggest, any criterion, either of success or of prosperity; and, as we have just heard from the statement read by the Minister a few minutes ago, it has been recognised that we cannot compete with the biggest nations of the world. We cannot continue to be the supreme military power or anything like it. But I suggest that there are things more worth being than that of being the supreme military power.

We must somehow re-establish ourselves in the front rank of the world as we used to be. It is obvious that we are not going to do it by the old methods. But I suggest that we can do it by presenting truth, giving enlightenment (if I may refer to propaganda as enlightenment, because that is what I truly mean) where calumny and falsehood are undermining all that civilisation holds dear. This country is dragging its feet. We have had comparative figures given us to-day. We are not doing very well. We are getting into a dangerous state. Not only that, but we are appearing to take a course which seems to smack of the irresponsible, if not of criminality. It is vital that those outside this Kingdom and Commonwealth should know of our good intentions, of our constructive, co-operative ideals for world prosperity and world happiness; that we are not colonialists it the worst sense; that we are not out to exploit those who cannot save themselves from being exploited.

I beg Her Majesty's Government to review this matter in a spirit of foresight, not of just squeezing the odd million here and there. I would go much further than do the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and the noble Lord, Lord Strang, in what I would ask for on the financial side. By taking money which we are able to save on the Defence programme, because we cannot any longer usefully spend it on that, we should launch out on an inspired new programme of great dimensions to harness the forces of peace and good will throughout the whole world by revealing truth and counteracting the devilish machinations of distortion and falsehood.

4.16 p.m.


My Lords, we are all greatly indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Strang, for initiating this debate and for putting as effectively as he did the case for more broadcasting. If I may say so, I profoundly agree with my noble friend Lord Drogheda that we cannot look at this simply as a broadcasting proposition; that, if we are to find a right solution, and, indeed, if we are to appreciate what it is that we are discussing to-day, we must see the situation in all its aspects. In the last war, of course, the position was really very simple: the whole country and Commonwealth were united in a life and death struggle. Every agency, including the B.B.C., had one single common objective, and followed the broad directives which were given by the Government of the day.

In all that, the B.B.C. played a signal and a noble part. "Ici Londres" was a voice of inspiration to millions of people who heard no other voice of encouragement at all. But to-day the situation is much more difficult and much more complex in many ways.

As the noble Lord who has just spoken has said, the cold war is intensified; it has "hotted up", and there is an infinite variety of propaganda which is put out against the United Kingdom and our Allies all over the world. It takes every shape and form. Sometimes it is false news—not only an inaccurate presentation of news but a pure invention: broadcasts like those from Cairo, that the Russians were bombing London and Paris. I need not go on elaborating. We all know that these broadcasts have been prevalent. Through the use of high-powered transmitters, they are heard all over the world. Every kind of lie is manufactured and put out. There is, of course, complete misrepresentation of policy and intention. Subversive propaganda is sown broadcast, stimulating unrest and discord anywhere and everywhere; internal discord in any country and discord between the Allies. Every medium is used. All this is an integral part of a co-ordinated cold offensive. It is extremely effective, especially among uneducated or uninformed people. This offensive, as I see it, has to be counteracted, and counteracted promptly and effectively. To do that there must be action, positive and negative.

On the negative side, of course, it is necessary to refute the lies that are told; but it is much more important to act positively. In merely denying lies or trying to catch them up, very often you do not catch them up; and, anyway, when you deny a lie you also give currency to the lie as well as to the denial. What is much more important is positive action, the exposition of policy and intention, and of the true facts. It is not at all enough to be on the defensive. We have to take the offensive and we have to keep it. It is nothing less than cold war. It is just as easy—indeed, it is probably a good deal easier—to lose a cold war intensively waged, as it is to lose a hot war. This cold war is being waged by unscrupulous enemies, with no holds barred—a sort of unarmed combat in which really it is not possible to "turn the other cheek." I suppose that there is hardly any noble Lord in the House who would disagree with that diagnosis.

What is the cure for that? What has to be done to make the great, aggressive plan and policy which the noble Lord, Lord Rea, has advocated? I am sure that the B.B.C. can play a useful part—certainly, for instance, in South America—in all trade propaganda. But they cannot do it all. Even if we were all united in policy and action, as we were in the war, it would still need an overall direction. Unhappily, we are not united; we certainly have been disunited. I most sincerely hope that we can come closer together in a bipartisan foreign policy at home and in full Allied agreement abroad. The nearer we get to this the easier will be the task. I hope that in this debate the House will not beg this question and deal merely in generalities—a sort of lowest common denominator on which we can all agree. We all agree that we must have good information; we all agree that the B.B.C. do some good work. But we have to face up to the difficult sector where the B.B.C. just cannot cover the situation.

What, then, are the Government of the day to do, and what is to be the policy? I would put this proposition to the House. I would submit that any Government, whether Conservative or Socialist, is entitled, and, indeed, bound, to try to make its policy effective. And, to be effective, that policy must be understood all over the world. But where there is a strong Party difference, the B.B.C. cannot act to put that policy across. By their constitution the B.B.C. have to be impartial. I entirely agree with Lord Strang, and others who have spoken, that it would be quite wrong to interfere with the impartiality of the B.B.C. I should be sorry to see the B.B.C. dictated to, or receiving directions from any Government, whatever its complexion, as to what they were to put out—except in war, of course, when the Government must take complete control. It has to be impartial. That means that where there are differences of opinion, the B.B.C. have to put both sides of the case.

I do not share a condemnation which I have, quite frequently, heard and read against the B.B.C. for putting two sides of a case. I honestly do not think that they can do anything else. That is all right in this country. When we here have domestic differences, it is perfectly all right that the B.B.C. should put out, quite objectively, what are the two points of view, or the three, or more, points of view. Intelligent people listen and look, and talk about it afterwards, and make up their minds, just as they do at election time. It works quite well in an intelligent and a reasonably unprejudiced democracy. But it does not work at all that way when you are dealing with completely uneducated people in places where anti-British propaganda is rampant. Let me put forward this example. Suppose the B.B.C. present a nicely balanced, two-column parallel of Sir Edwin Herbert's report and Dr. Edith Summerskill's report. People here can make up their own minds about it—I think they have done so. But what do your Lordships think is going to be the effect of that kind of thing if it is presented in the Middle East?

I read in The Times, as Lord Strang did, an interesting letter by Sir Robert Boyer on the valuable effect of B.B.C. broadcasts among some Arabs in the Middle East. I do not think that he claimed that it was among more than a minority—what Lord Strang himself called, that very small minority which one hopes still exists in countries, however violent the mob may be. Certainly, it can only have been among a small number. About the same time, or a little before, I read a letter in the Daily Telegraph from a man, who, I imagine, is an equally impartial observer—a man whose business it is to travel every year in the Middle East and in Africa—on what he found to be the effect of the B.B.C.'s balanced, objective broadcasts in Africa. I will quote a sentence or two. He says: Atrocity stories and highly coloured protests from Egypt, as broadcast over Cairo radio, were put out again by the B.B.C. as statements of fact without comment. At no time in the news broadcasts for West Africa during the crisis was there any British comment as such beyond broadcasts of statements of the Prime Minister and the diametrically opposed statements of Mr. Gaitskell. From the point of view of traditional British fair play, this was no doubt excellent, provided the listeners were equipped and qualified to farm their own conclusions. The effect, however, on intelligent Africans, and on the unintelligent ones who are becoming…politically conscious, as well as on British listeners without the benefit of the background, was deplorable. Only about 15 to 20 per cent, of the B.B.C. broadcasts appeared, in fact, to be pro-British, and 80 per cent, were anti-British in effect. The result was complete bewilderment and despair"— He goes on: The effect in the Moslem Northern Region of Nigeria, where…there is good reception of Cairo radio's incessant anti-British propaganda, was disastrous. I am sure that that letter is objective reporting of what an intelligent observer found. But it surely shows that the kind of objective, balanced presentation which may be admirable in this country may, from the point of view of petting across the case of any Government, be absolutely disastrous in these countries where one is meeting the full blast of the attack of the cold war.

If I may take a parallel, there was a very good rule (which I hope still exists) which I am sure all of us who have been in public life, on any side, have most scrupulously adhered to; that is, that, wherever we travel abroad, however much opposed we are to the Government of the day at home, we never attack that Government when we are in a foreign country. Noble Lords opposite have been just as scrupulous to observe that rule as I hope we on this side of the House have been. It is a very important rule. Yet when one gets these objective, balanced broadcasts all over the Middle East, over Africa and India, it is exactly as if we went out there and made these speeches against one another, attacking one another.

Such speeches are perfectly all right and proper when they are made here. As a matter of fact, when we make a speech in the United States or India, or elsewhere, we probably have—even the best of us—a limited audience, and perhaps get on to the local radio station but one of the excellent things about the B.B.C. is that it has such a wide circulation. When such speeches, made by noble Lords or Members in another place are put out in that way, impartially, they have exactly the same effect as if they were being addressed to an incomparably larger audience. It is indeed a worldwide audience. Therefore, what I would put to the House, and I hope it can be endorsed to-day—it is no reflection on the B.B.C.—is that any Government of the day should accept the responsibility of taking a vigorous counter-offensive over the whole propaganda field in the cold war, and that all of us, to whatever Party we belong, should accept that, whether or not we agree with Government policy, this is an essential duty of any Government and we should expect them to undertake it.

4.33 p.m.


My Lords. I rise to support my noble friend Lord Strang in the Motion he has moved. I think it is very suitable that it should come before your Lordships at a time when the Chancellor of the Duchy is considering what action he shall take; and presumably Parliament will have an opportunity of knowing what decision the Chancellor of the Duchy has reached. It seems to me, therefore, that at this moment those of us who are interested in this matter can best hope that this debate will be drawn to the attention of Dr. Hill and that some of the remarks made by your Lordships may bear fruit.

The noble Earl touched on one point which I think is of the utmost importance—the fact that a short time ago, during the Suez crisis, a station that had operated normally was taken away and given the title of the "Voice of Britain". Surely that was an astonishing action, because up till now the whole world has always looked on the B.B.C. as the voice of Britain. That was so during the war. That has been one of its great, strong points. Then suddenly there came this "Voice of Britain", which I believe was broadcasting from Cyprus. The broadcasts were 100 per cent. propaganda, and if they are read now, coldly and dispassionately, a good many of the statements they made certainly do not come up to the standard mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Strang, which was recommended by the Drogheda Report. They were amateur attempts at propaganda which were absolutely laughable and brought this country into contempt. I hope that no station will ever again be taken by our Government for propaganda purposes and given the title of the "Voice of Britain", because that action did irreparable damage and it will take a long time to get over that.

The noble Lords, Lord Strang and Lord Drogheda, have mentioned what must be the basis of any form of broadcasting which this House and this country supports: that no matter what may be the crisis here, it is essential that it shall be impartial, factual and true; and I believe that that is the strength lying behind British broadcasting. It is for that reason that people listen to it. There is one other matter which ought to be mentioned now. If we are going to recover lost ground in the Middle East, we have to concentrate on the forms of broadcast that were so effective in the past, and on no account whatsoever cut down a single service, because that would be a fatal thing to do at the present time.

There are certain members of Her Majesty's Government who believe that broadcasting can be switched on and off like electric light, but it cannot be, because the people who have to carry out the broadcasting are hand-picked people who have to be carefully trained, and, as noble Lords will remember happened during the war, their voices became well known. People recognised the voices of particular broadcasters, both British and enemy. Less educated people in a foreign country get to know the voices of those who they believe are speaking the truth, and look forward to hearing them again. Therefore, when we are talking about the finances of the B.B.C., do not let us neglect the fact that the staff must be carefully selected and must be absolutely first-class people; and if they are going to be that, then they have to carry a good salary.

Another point that arises in this matter is that the broadcasts that come from Moscow are not the only ones that decry this country. There are other countries also which, under the guise of presenting their own goods and services, tend to cry down the credit of this country. That has been happening lately, especially in the Persian Gulf, where there are other oil interests besides British. There have been broadcasts and also television broadcasts from places where television transmitters have been installed. Naturally television, which people can see as well as hear, gets more attention paid to it by the less educated people than purely sound broadcasts.

I should like to ask Her Majesty's Government three questions to which I attach considerable importance. First, what additions or subtractions have been made to the transmitting resources of the external services since 1947, first, at home, and secondly, abroad? The second question: is enough money being made available to ensure that the resources that do exist can be used to the full? Third: what is being done to provide effective services to British overseas territories, especially those in Africa? All that turns on the point of the actual material that is employed by the B.B.C.

I sometimes think that we ought to have a sense of proportion. Noble Lords have probably been reading in the papers lately of the scrapping of three or four battleships. each of which cost a good many millions of pounds. Every day ships have to be scrapped. If a fraction of the money spent on those ships had been set aside for broadcasting we should have been in a very different position now from that in which we actually are. I think that in these days, with a sort of mad diarchy in the United Nations, it is more important than ever that we should use every means we can to impress British points of view on other nations, to ensure that what we are aiming at is known by people in different parts of the world. And the process must be continuous. It is no use carrying it out for a short time and then cutting off.

Some years ago, when I was Chairman of the Estimates Committee in another place, we reviewed the whole question of the broadcasting services and we made the strongest possible recommendation to the effect that it was uneconomic and bad policy to have an annual grant. It was impossible, in our view, for the B.B.C. to frame a continuity policy, and, as some noble Lords have already said, it led to waste of money. There is no doubt that until the annual grant-in-aid system is changed, at least to a quinquennial one, we are not going to get the results which this country expects from the expenditure. I only hope that noble Lords may find time to read the recommendations in the Report of that Committee. They were accepted, but nothing was done: they remained just pious hopes. But it will make a great difference to the future of broadcasting if the grant-in-aid on an annual basis is changed.

In addition, there must be an immediate review of the expenditure on obsolescent material. It is no use trying to carry on a world broadcasting system with obsolescent material; it gives a bad impression and it is a frightful waste of money. It is necessary, therefore, to replace some of the transmitters. It would not cost more than £500,000 a year completely to re-equip all the broadcasting stations that are available. Furthermore, I think it must be remembered that if we are going to succeed—as I hope we shall—in having a transmission station powerful enough to reach every part of the world, it takes from eighteen months to two years to construct the machinery necessary for the transmitting station from the time of giving authority for it to the time when it is erected and in service, to say nothing of the time it takes to train people in the local languages and all the rest of it—people you must have if you are going to make full use of your transmitting station.

Finally, there is one other matter which I should like to mention because it came up in the inquiry which we made. It relates to the future of television, and have already touched on it once. Do not let any of us forget that we stand on the threshhold of a new method of communication—especially to backward peoples. I am sure that in the whole sphere of external information it is of the utmost importance, especially in British possessions in Africa and elsewhere, that we should sec how far it is possible to make a start, at any rate, with a television system and local transmitters. I am not talking now of colour transmission but only of black and white and the ordinary way in which we may put over authentic news. There is a very real danger that other people will step in and start upon that before we get a chance of doing it. Lot us remember that most of the broadcasts that are directed against this country are broadcasts which foster enmity, hatred and malice in every direction; and having television and sound broadcasting made more effective, made more powerful, under the control of the B.B.C. will make a greater contribution to the hope of peace in the world and do more to improve relations between this and other countries than almost anything else. I think it is criminal to neglect it.

4.46 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to add my thanks to those which have already been expressed to the noble Lord. Lord Strang, for bringing this Motion before your Lordships' House today. Before dealing with it, perhaps I might say to the noble Lord, Lord Rea, and the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, with regard to their references to the B.B.C. during the war and the work of transmitting which was done during the war, that I am sure they would also wish to give especial credit to the people who received the messages. It was relatively easy, even in the heat of the battle, to transmit from London, but if one has read some of the spy stories which are current just now, one realises that the job of receiving them was a very different matter. I am sure that both the noble Lord and the noble Earl have that in mind.

To-day there is a radio war in progress. We have heard it referred to as a "cold war." I beg to differ. In my view, it is a very hot war on the radio air waves. In proof of that, it is only necessary to consider the 7,000 Yemeni tribesmen who for the first time have been mobilised to think, act and work together, in order to fight against our troops in the Aden Protectorate. That is one very small example of the success achieved in the Middle East against our country, and against free democracy, in this radio war. A term which has become well known now is "radio barrage", and the success which the B.B.C. have achieved in penetrating radio barrages, and indeed in creating a radio barrage of their own, can be judged from the words of the noble Lord, Lord Strang, when he mentioned that B.B.C. broadcasts did penetrate to Budapest. It is not often that messages can get through the Iron Curtain radio barrage. When it is said that the B.B.C. equipment is out of date, I think that is not entirely accurate, for it is up to date in this country for transmitting to the world. It is just a question of how that equipment can be used. I shall, I am afraid, differ somewhat, in what I am going to say, from some of the things which have been said by the noble Lord, Lord Strang, and other noble Lords.

I am delighted, as I am sure other noble Lords are, that Dr. Charles Hill is to be the representative of Her Majesty's Government for broadcasting. I hope that we shall hear that he will have one special responsibility, because I believe that lack of this responsibility is the reason we have had so little success in this radio war. There is no Department that is responsible, whether in the B.B.C. or in Her Majesty's Government, for the reception of messages, which are transmitted from this country or from any other broadcasting station in the world, originating in this country. The B.B.C. may put out most excellent material (I will call it information rather than propaganda), but after that information has been put out, there is no one to make quite certain that it does, in fact, come out of the wireless set, perhaps inside an Arab tent, or in a school or in a factory in one of our own Dominions or Colonies. I can well remember how, during the war, when I was in Canada, there would often be a rush of English boys to hear the B.B.C. news; but they were always defeated because the Canadian boys wished to hear their own news, sent out from their own small local station, which no doubt would be preceded by some attractive programme which they wished to hear. It is useless to send out the finest material unless there is also a department concerned with reception.

The economies that have been made, and are being made, in our overseas broadcasting are equivalent to a reduction in our Defence Estimates; but not only do they reduce the amount we pay for such defence, they also increase the effectiveness of our enemies' defence mechanism in the radio war. In the Middle East the medium frequencies are the only frequencies which can be obtained on the small sets of the sort the Arabs have, and our stations are almost always overpowered by foreign stations, operating at frequencies very near to those of the B.B.C. I have been told by people who have come back from the Middle East that they have complaints with regard to the difficulty of hearing the B.B.C. out there, and I was amazed to hear this afternoon from the noble Lords, Lord Swinton and Lord Glyn, how effective were the broadcasts of the differing opinions which existed in another place. Somehow, it seems an accident that that message should have had such a great hearing in the Middle East at that time.

I think that one of the basic reasons why the B.B.C. cannot get their message across is that they have to try to stick to the objective truth, as the noble Lord.

Lord Strang, has mentioned. Every other competitive broadcasting station has a particular message to sell, and they put their message over by every possible means. The B.B.C. are tied by strict rules of procedure and have to observe strictly the international conventions on radio broadcasting. I have notified the noble Earl who is to reply that I would ask him whether the Government are satisfied that the Middle East foreign stations are broadcasting according to the rules laid down in the Atlantic City Convention of 1947. That Convention deals with the frequencies and strengths of broadcasting stations. There are all sorts of ways of increasing the power of a radio station, and in the near future there will be ways of increasing the range and power of television stations. Whether the Government and the B.B.C. like it or not, the time will come when a commercial television station, equivalent to Radio Luxembourg, will be broadcasting on a range available on all our television sets, putting across the message of foreign advertisers. That has already happened in the United States, where the competition for air speaking time is the strongest and fiercest that has ever been.

I suspect that another reason why the B.B.C. are not able to have their message broadcast more widely is that not enough money is spent upon sponsoring their programmes on foreign stations. May I also suggest that very likely the sort of material which is put forward by the B.B.C. is not the sort of material that listeners, say, in South America, would choose of their own free will to listen to; and that is of vital importance. I am certain that the noble Lord, Lord Strang, will be the first to agree with me when I say that anybody can broadcast to people who wish to listen; but it is far different to send your message to people who do not wish to listen, or, worse still, who have an alternative programme to which they cart listen. I hope that Dr. Charles Hill, in his new capacity, will be able to become responsible for the reception of B.B.C. material. I believe that it is vital to get our message over if we are to get anywhere near to winning the radio war, which is on in all severity. I hope that we shall hear from the noble Earl whether he thinks that the B.B.C. are the right vehicle for putting over information to other countries. Somehow I rather doubt that a body which is owned by the country, and whose responsibility under their Charter is to put forward unbiased and fair information from all sides, is really the vehicle that can push forward the hard truths that have to be pushed through the radio barrage coming from other countries.

4.58 p.m.


My Lords, before the debate closes, I should like to intervene for one moment, not for the purpose of taking part in the broader issues so admirably introduced by my noble friend Lord Strang, but for one purpose, and for one purpose only—that is, with the desire of supporting in such humble way as I may the point made by my noble friend Lord Swinton at the conclusion of his speech, in regard to the difficulty that arises about the presentation of the "Voice of Britain" in foreign countries, I am fully alive to the sentiment that was so forcibly expressed both by my noble friend Lord, Strang and by the noble Earl who followed him, as to the importance of scrupulous adherence to truth, and to the extreme importance of avoiding any prejudice to the impartial position of the B.B.C. I share entirely that sentiment. On the other hand, I should have supposed that everybody must agree upon the importance of this country's speaking with one voice to foreign countries. It is really impossible for those who speak on behalf of this country to speak with many voices.

What does that mean? It means, as my noble friend has said, that the responsible Government of the day must be supported by the B.B.C. in putting the Government view abroad as the view of this country. The arguments, the differences and the different points of view are properly incorporated in the Party broadcasts within this country. That is right. Where people have to make up their winds, where public opinion has to be formed, and people need to have the arguments in order to choose and decide, they must have the arguments. But it seems to me suicidal, when we have this cold war, which is every hit as important for our future as any other kind of war, that we should deliberately, under a mistaken sense of what is incumbent upon us, set out to weaken the impact and the power that this country should have in the world by presenting ourselves as a people with no unity, torn by discord, and utterly ineffective and leaderless. That must be disastrous. I therefore suggest that, whatever Government are in power (and I should feel exactly the same if the Party of noble Lords opposite were the responsible Government), they must be the responsible people to speak for England abroad. And, as my noble friend Lord Swinton said, we must apply the same principles to broadcasting as we apply to ourselves in speeches when we travel abroad.

5.1 p.m.


My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Strang, reminded us, it is just over two years since I raised the whole broad question of the overseas information services. On that occasion our debate centred round the effect of the Report of the Committee under the noble Earl, Lord Drogheda, and it is interesting to find that some, at least, of the important matters that we discussed then were apparently put away into cold storage to be given an airing again only to-day. I am particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Strang, for giving us a second opportunity to review some of these matters; and I should also like to say how glad I am that the noble Earl, Lord Drogheda, was able to help us on this occasion, because on the last occasion he could not partake in the debate due to illness.

I suppose that increasingly we are all aware that up and down the country a discriminating public is recognising the great gap in the whole complicated setup of information, and that is reflected in the appointment of Dr. Charles Hill. Noble Lords this afternoon have covered the whole field of information, and I shall confine my remarks to one branch of the information tree—namely, the external services of the B.B.C. All I shall hope to do is to try and define the principles on which I believe the external services should function in the future, and to apply those principles to the immediate situation in the Middle East, and perhaps discover where we have gone wrong.

The aims and purposes of the B.B.C. external services are defined in their handbook, and the noble Lord, Lord Strang, has stressed them. I believe one could reduce them all to just three words: disseminating objective information. When one speaks of information, I think one has to make a clear distinction between two quite different conceptions—one might almost say two problems. First, there is this straightforward projection of British life, British method. British policy, the selling of British goods abroad, the exporting of British culture, and so on: very important indeed for the long term, but innocuous and innocent. We all recognise that the B.B.C. do this excellently. Secondly, there is to-day an extension of that first normal obligation, but an extension with this difference: that there is nothing innocuous or innocent about it. I can only define it—and I gather from what your Lordships have said that you would agree—as "to wage and win the war of co-existence." I think that "Minister of Co-existence" might be an alternative title for the Minister of Co-ordination.

In other words, if the Governors of the B.B.C. were to take another look at their aims and purposes to-day, as defined, I think they would perhaps have to consider adding another paragraph. I should not be so bold as to suggest the phraseology of that paragraph, but all I would urge is that it should be placed on record that there is a function now far more dynamic and vital than the mere considering of objective information, however efficiently that may be undertaken. If that extra vitality is to be applied to waging a cold war, in turn one asks: against whom is it to be directed? I suggest that for that we have not only to take within our purview the Communist, whom we can all recognise, but all those countries which, by reason of certain possessions, so easily lend themselves to Communist influence. There, then, for our purpose is the enemy; and it would be misleading and we should be deceiving ourselves if we regarded him as anything less. I suggest that the text for this kind of work might be found perhaps in that verse of the National Anthem, too frequently discarded these days: Confound their politics, Frustrate their knavish tricks. I would make one qualification, and it is that it is usually leadership we are attacking rather than the poor sheep who are led. That leads us to the conclusion that great sublety is required in this kind of work, and a high sense of psychology.

As to these normal functions of the B.B.C., we all agree that they perform their services in competition with other national services in the world as successfully as we could possibly imagine. After all, they are, as the noble Earl, Lord Bathurst, suggested, usually talking to people who, on the whole, want to hear them. In those circumstances, you can adopt the technique of commercial advertising. We all want to drink tea, and, on the whole, we will drink the tea which is most frequently and most attractively presented to us, whether it is a matter of gazing into a small space from a seat in an underground train, or of looking at a great disfiguring hoarding in the middle of a green field. It is, however, a different matter from dealing with friends, who, on the whole, want to hear what you have to say, when you turn to foes, who do not. But it is a matter of life and death, if not for us, certainly for our children.

I fully endorse most of the recommendations of the Drogheda Report, but there was one paragraph which seems to me to be not quite within the terms of realism the light of the present-day situation. Paragraph 7 says: Winning the cold war is but one of a number of current aims of our information work. I would put it this way: that if we lose that war, it will not matter very much if we win one hundred petty campaigns, political or economic, sprinkled about in different parts of the world. We are not dealing with the loss of a British contract abroad, or considering the exhibition of a British picture in a foreign capital, but are considering the whole substance of democracy, its existence and its defence.

To pass to the application of some of these thoughts to the Middle East, the Drogheda Report, in my view very rightly, says: No amount of propaganda is a substitute for policy Recently that was applied in criticism in the Middle East, where it was said that the Government had no policy, the inference being that it did not matter very much what we broadcast. It is true that that is an attractive proposition, but it has this danger. I suggest that no lack of a policy nor even a bad policy, absolves any Government from the simple duty of refuting, immediately and forcibly, the direct lie, and, as some noble Lords have said, in the Middle East it is the technique of the complete lie which is directed against us. Certainly much more than mere scrupulous objectivity is needed. It must need those two views which have been presented to us this afternoon: one the view of Sir Richard Boyer, quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Strang, and the other the view of Mr. Courtenay in the Daily Telegraph, quoted by the noble Earl, Lord Swinton. To my mind, the lesson from those two conflicting views is that we have yet a lot to learn and apply about discrimination between one audience and another.

"According to the needs of the many audiences," is the direct injunction in the aims and purposes defined by the B.B.C. What goes down in Cairo will not go down in Paris; and what goes down with one audience in Paris will not go down with another audience in the same town. Apply that to the Middle East and you might find to-day that a family in Damascus would turn on their set after dinner and listen in to the B.B.C., with a view to checking up on the veracity of their own local station. But how many people in Damascus have their sets and turn them on after dinner? I think we could say quite safely that 80 per cent. of the listeners in such a town are what one might term the "coffee-house listeners"; and for them, objectivity is most certainly meaningless.

The conclusion I come to is that, somehow or other, we have to cater for two audiences with two separate programmes. I do not claim to prescribe a remedy; I only give the diagnosis. I would stress that the B.B.C. at this moment have absolutely nothing on the ground in the Middle East. In fact, when we talk about the external services we are, of course, referring to the Arabic service broadcast from London. Some may wonder exactly what we have in the Middle East. I would remind your Lordships that until October 30 there was a private company operating in Cyprus called Sharq al Adna, a private company selling time in exactly the same way as Radio Luxembourg. It had a few Arabist experts from this country, and it had a large Arabic staff. I will not go into the story of the requisitioning of that company on October 30, because.

as the noble Lord, Lord Glyn, has told us, it is a strange and depressing kind of story, and I do not believe that any purpose would be served in going into it. But I would stress that it does raise the whole question of the future. That company was taken over by the "Voice of Britain," operated directly from this country under the Foreign Office.

I suggest that Cyprus is the only possible site for such a station. Aden is remote, and it is impossible to put down a British station on foreign soil. It seems to me that there are three possible courses. First of all, we could have a British Government station, operating under the Foreign Office—what might be termed a Foreign Office station; secondly, we could have a British station operating under private enterprise, with Government encouragement in the background; or, thirdly, we could have the B.B.C., operating under an increased grant-in-aid for the purpose. Of those three courses, I come to the conclusion that the B.B.C. is the most practical.

My reasons are these. I doubt whether any Foreign Office station would ever be able to shake off the accusation that its one and only purpose was to project British policy, which would always be interpreted as directed to destroy either Arab unity or Israel—one or the other: it is an official programme that must always suffer the stigma of officialdom. It is true that the "Voice of Britain" tries to mix up music and entertainment into its programme, but I cannot help thinking that it has great difficulties in doing that. After all, one does not turn to the London Symphony Orchestra if one wants to engage a dance band. Paradoxically, I believe that a station operating under private enterprise would suffer from the same kind of disability, only this time it would not be a matter so much of British policy being under attack, but of the machinations of "wicked Western capitalist interests." There are far too many loopholes for accusation and too many political fences for such a company to avoid—even if we could find private enterprise, in the form of oil companies or something of that sort, to support it.

Therefore, I return to the B.B.C., and I would stress that the B.B.C. start off with one great advantage, which is that they have a ready-made public already on the ground. In 1955, the B.B.C. Overseas Service in London received no fewer than 11,000 letters written in Arabic. So there is a ready-made reputation, a ready-made audience, for that technique in which we, the British, are surely experts—the development of a corporation, a semi-independent body. I think that, over the years, the B.B.C. have built up that reputation, and that it is recognised in the Middle East, and I can see no reason why, if a B.B.C. station were let in on the ground, with time to recruit its Arabic staff and to acclimatise itself, it should not be able to restore that stability and friendship which is so necessary to us in the Middle East.

The Drogheda Report has rightly said that no station is a substitute for a policy —or words to that effect. If the B.B.C. is to make its mark, then it most certainly must have something to sell. I do not know whether it is a matter of putting our faith in the Baghdad Pact, or the economic clauses of that Pact, suggesting how this country could build up its economic aid to the area covered by the Pact. All I would say is that there is a theme, something on which a broadcasting station can bite; and that I regard as essential to the success of trying to put across the British message in the Middle East. The B.B.C. tell me that they are satisfied with their relations with the Foreign Office. Some of your Lordships may have seen a leader in The Times some time ago in which exception was taken to the fact that a liaison officer, appointed at the time of the Suez crisis between the Foreign Office and the B.B.C., had not been removed. I do not know whether that represents fair criticism or not. All I can say is that the B.B.C. would say they find no difficulty, in undertaking that obligation, to inform themselves of Her Majesty's Government's policy, and it is only when that policy is in doubt, or when information about it is withheld, that a broadcasting system gets into danger.

To sum up, I would ask Her Majesty's Government three points. I ask them, first for a declaration of intention, if they can give it, as to the establishment of a medium-wave station in the Middle East. Secondly, I would ask them if they are satisfied that the relationship between the B.B.C. and the Foreign Office is such as enables the B.B.C. to discharge their obligations. Thirdly, remembering always that the Government formulate policy, I would ask them if they are prepared to recognise a task of wider scope than mere information—a duty to wage the psychological war of co-existence; and, if so, can we see that that obligation is written into the B.B.C.'s terms of reference as an imperative function that should be undertaken.

5.20 p.m.


My Lords, I intervene for only one moment in the debate, and that is to urge that the Government and the B.B.C., in considering this problem, should not be inclined to confine themselves to the spoken word. As one looks to the future, surely it is true that it is the world of pictures that will be the most effective. I wonder whether they are taking any steps in what I agree is a most difficult task, the task of considering how they can deal with the subject of this debate in future years in the form of pictures that will be so much more widely noted in foreign countries than we could possibly hope for in the spoken word. I realise that there are, at the moment, technical difficulties, though I believe that they will be overcome; but there are no technical difficulties in the Government's sponsoring programmes on television in other countries and using that as a means of their propaganda. I intervene just to raise that issue, because vie must look to the future and not try to fight the battles of the future with the weapons of the past. In a few years' time I believe that television will be much more important, popular and widely used than the "Voice of Britain" could be.

5.22 p.m.


My Lords, I venture to address your Lordships for only one moment as I spent part of the Christmas Recess in Austria in very close contact with Hungarian refugees immediately after they crossed the border, and with many people who dealt with them. The supreme fact is that, in the battle for the minds of the younger generation East of the Iron Curtain, we appear to have won; but when it comes to guiding action on that side, there is greater need than ever for the "Voice of Britain", for the American- sponsored "Voice of Free Europe" has been under certain criticism —I do not say whether it is fair or unfair. Perhaps they have raised too high hopes of American intervention and action, and have sometimes led people, one must say, a "little up the garden path".

British credit is unimpaired, and it is essential for the 98 per cent. of the Hungarian people who remain behind the Iron Curtain that they should be kept in constant touch, not only with the facts of what happens in Western Europe but with the facts of what is happening on the other side of the Iron Curtain; that they should be in contact with the actions and words of leaders who have escaped, like the Mayor of Budapest, Dr. Kovago, and the Socialist leader, Dr. Anna Kethly; and that they should be given some way of assessing what the right action should be. We do not want to see either false hopes leading to a useless sacrifice of lives or, on the other hand, despair; but, by a constant stream of informed opinion which helps to model the action, we can have a great effect. Until I had seen the Iron Curtain countries very closely I had no idea how critical, how shaky, how insecure and, indeed, how fluid is the situation in those Communist countries—not only in the satellites but in Russia itself. This is a moment not for reducing the "Voice of Britain" to Eastern Europe, but for increasing it.

5.24 p.m.


My Lords, I am moved to intervene in this debate for a few minutes in order to express my profound disagreement with the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Swinton. I could not disagree more with anything. I was shocked to find that he had the support of the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, with whom I so often find myself in agreement on questions of moral principle. It seems to me that this suggestion— that, when a nation is as profoundly divided as this nation was last autumn over the action of the Government in Egypt, we should try to go out to the world as being a united nation under the leadership of a Government with which half of us bitterly disagree—is morally and completely wrong. Why I am so shocked is that the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, should have supported that view, because that he should wish in effect to have two moral standards, a moral standard for our people at home and another moral standard when we are making the "Voice of Britain" known to the world, seems to me a very shocking thing. What the noble Earl, Lord Swinton is, in effect, advocating is that we should speak with this sort of "Voice of Britain" which spoke from Cyprus and which personally, I felt, brought degradation on the people of this country.


My Lords, the noble Lord is remaking my speech for me, which is very kind of him. The thesis I put to the House and which, I think, commanded a good deal of support was simply this: that when you are dealing with the outside world, the Government of the day, whether it is the noble Lord's Government or this Government, have not only a right but a duty to put across their policy.


By all means let the policy of the Government be put across. It was put across perfectly fairly by the British Broadcasting Corporation. But what is wrong is that it should be put across as the "Voice of Britain" when it is not the voice of Britain. I was very glad indeed to find that the noble Lord, Lord Glyn, denounced so effectively what had been done in respect of this Cyprus broadcast. It was a shameful thing. It seems to me that it is not only morally wrong but shameful that we should behave in that way. It does not pay either, because, as the noble Viscount who has just resumed his seat made perfectly clear, it is ridiculous nonsense to suppose that people all over the world think that there is unity in this country over matters of this kind. After all, these things appear in the newspapers and the newspapers go abroad. Whether it happens in twenty-four hours or whether it happens in forty-eight hours, sooner or later what is happening in this country is known all over the world.

No doubt some of these people are stupid, silly people—the "lumpen proletariat," as they are called—but they are not the people who make opinions in the world. The people who make opinions and whose opinion is important are people such as students, the professional people, who attempted to secure freedom for Hungary during the last autumn. Surely the reason why we won the ideological battle there, as the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, said, was because they knew perfectly well that the British Broadcast- ing Corporation came over straight on matters of that sort. It is very significant. After all, these Hungarians are intelligent people, and so are the Poles; so, indeed, are the Russians. The Russians know perfectly well that in no country is everybody 100 per cent. behind the Government, and they themselves feel the same sort of degradation as I felt when they hear their own broadcasts put across in Moscow in the stupid way in which they are put across—and I have heard them say so.

A friend of mine who was in Moscow at the time when the Hungarian crisis was at its height saw in the University of Moscow the official bulletin of what was happening there. There were students who had put alongside it: "This is what the B.B.C. says about what is going, on in Budapest." There was an enormous throng of students round the notice-board reading what the B.B.C. said. It is because the B.B.C. has a reputation which is so valuable that I suggest that this suggestion about putting a united "Voice" out all over the world which is not the voice of the nation, ought not to be accepted.

I have spent most of my life in the university world, where our great objective is the search for truth. Even the B.B.C. has not got the whole of the truth. What it puts out is only the truth as far as it knows it. You can get the truth only by finding out what the other man is saying too, and comparing his view about things with your own. That is why I like to know not only what is said by the B.B.C. here but also what is said in New York by the New York Herald Tribune which the American Government is good enough to send me every morning and which I study to the best of my ability. And not only in what is put out in New York, but also in what is put out in Moscow, there is a glimpse of truth; and by putting these things together, one is able to build up for oneself what seems to be the truth, and, so to speak, to get the picture into conspectus. This seems to me most important, and it is the job which the B.B.C. is doing. I entirely support Lord Strang and Lord Drogheda, and I hope that your Lordships will not accept this insidious proposal put forward by the noble Earl, Lord Swinton.

5.30 p.m.


My Lords, I consider that this has been a most interesting debate, and your Lordships have made criticisms and suggestions that will be of enormous value. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Strang, for having given us the opportunity to discuss this subject, and to hear both his view and the views of other noble Lords who have spoken. As your Lordships have already been made aware by the Answer which I gave to the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, in your Lordships' House on January 31, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Dr. Charles Hill, has been entrusted with the rôle of co-ordinating Government information services, both abroad and at home; and as part of his rôle he is conducting, in collaboration with the responsible Ministers, a review of overseas services with a view to recommending whether it is necessary to alter the balance of effort between different areas in the world or between different forms of information. I can answer the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is not likely to become a Minister of Propaganda.


May I ask the noble Earl (because I rather thought this was the case, though I may be wrong) whether the terms of reference of the Chancellor of the Duchy include the responsibility of snaking recommendations about improvements in these services? I do not think the noble Earl mentioned that in the statement he has just made.


I regret that I have not given the full quotation from the terms of reference.


That is a most important thing.


I apologise to the noble Earl. Perhaps I should not have mentioned it at all, merely referring the noble Earl to the Charter and to the answers given by the Prime Minister in another place. While on this subject, I should like to answer the two questions of the noble Earl, Lord Listowel. I have already answered one question, and have referred him to the Prime Minister's statement in another place. The other question dealt with the staff which the Chancellor of the Duchy will have. He has private, secretaries; the question of the rest of his staff is still under consideration and has not yet been fixed.

A question has been asked by Lord Strang, and by other noble Lords who have taken part in the debate, about the Government's attitude to the 1946 White Paper on Broadcasting Policy, stressing the importance of the Corporation's maintaining its reputation for telling the truth. I can assure the House that there has been no change here. We welcome the complete objectivity of news broadcasts given by the B.B.C. This has never been in question, and I hope it never will be. We in this country have always believed in telling the truth in our broadcasts. We believe in it now, and I hope that we always shall.

The other question is the independence of the B.B.C. in the preparation of programmes for overseas audiences. This is closely followed in the 1952 licence and agreement between the Postmaster General and the B.B.C.; but too, should like to quote clause 15 (5) which reads as follows:— The Corporation shall consult and collaborate with the departments so specified (i.e. the three overseas departments prescribing services) and shall obtain and accept from them such information regarding conditions in, and the policies of Her Majesty's Government towards, the countries so prescribed and other countries, as will enable the Corporation to plan and prepare its programmes in the external services in the national interest Several of your Lordships have made criticisms of the B.B.C.'s external services. May I offer some reflections? In countries where democracy is not fully developed, I agree that people do not always understand our tradition of airing our difficulties in public. They tend to regard the B.B.C. as the official mouthpiece, and they are bewildered when the B.B.C. broadcasts the cacophony of public argument. Secondly, it is not enough to transmit good programmes from here without being sure that they are listened to at the other end. There have been great strides in international technique. Locally transmitted programmes on medium wave, and more particularly on V.H.F., are received so much better that, in a crowded ether, short-wave programmes from abroad stand less and less chance of being listened to in any foreign country. Again, in many countries, as here, television is winning the battle against sound. These factors lead to the conclusion that, in some circumstances, sound recordings or transcriptions and television films are better ways of spending money, except where short-wave transmissions are picked up and locally relayed. We must move with the technical changes and deploy our resources to the best advantage. By and large, this redeployment might mean less for the West and certainly more for the East.

Thirdly, it might well be that the B.B.C.'s Services to the Middle East should be augmented by broadcasting addressed to a wider and less intelligent audience, to those who would listen only to a programme of a type and level which the B.B.C. were constitutionally unable to produce. This does not necessarily mean a propaganda programme. Such a programme might do an important job by attracting to itself listeners who might otherwise listen to less entertaining programmes charged with abuse and misrepresentation.

Several noble Lords have asked questions about the "Voice of Britain" service. This programme was introduced in order to meet the special needs of the occasion. The B.B.C. Arabic Services amounted to no more than 4½ hours a day. Her Majesty's Government felt it essential to provide a much longer service in order to counter the hostile broadcasts coming from the high-powered Egyptian transmitters. The Near East Broadcasting station in Cyprus was requisitioned on October 31 last year. This was a private British company, the senior staff being, mostly British, but the station relied on Arabs for preparation and delivery of its programmes. The Government decided on requisition because a privately owned station, largely staffed by Arab personnel, could obviously not be left to broadcast uncontrolled during military operations. The result has been a composite service relayed from Cyprus for 15 hours a day in Arabic, of which the B.B.C. service forms about one-third and the "Voice of Britain" service the remainder.

The Government have now asked the B.B.C. to step up these Arabic services to at least 9 hours per day. The Government have also decided on the provision on a permanent basis of relay facilities for the Arabic service of the B.B.C. by using transmitters at Sharq al Adna, which the Government will purchase from the Near East Arab Broadcasting Station. I should like to say, in passing, that the "Voice of Britain" has proved an effective method of putting out material as a counter to Cairo Radio and other hostile stations in the area. I do not agree with noble Lords who have said that it has harmed the high reputation built up by the B.B.C., since it has not indulged, and does not indulge, in the venomous and slanderous methods of Cairo Radio, but concentrates in fighting lies with facts.

I will now turn to the Drogheda Committee. Here, I should like once more to thank the noble Earl who has spoken to-day for the important and useful work which he has carried out. Although the period between 1947 and the publication of the Drogheda Committee's report in 1953 has been referred to, I will not go into this matter in detail, since, although economy was a determining factor in leading the Government of the day to reduce external broadcasting from some 240 hours a week, in 1947, to 223 hours a week, in 1952, in the European Services, and from 480 hours to 317 hours a week in the remaining overseas services, the period must, I think, be regarded as one of transition from the war-time to a reasonable peace-time level. I prefer, therefore, to take the year of the Drogheda Report as my starting point.

So far as weekly hours broadcast are concerned, there has not been much change in the period from 1953 to the present day. The European services have, in fact, risen from 223 hours to 242 hours. The rise is mainly due to increase in the services to countries behind the Iron Curtain, the other services remaining virtually unchanged. The overseas services were reduced in the corresponding period from 316¾ hours to 315½ hours, the pattern of these services remaining more or less the same throughout the period. The question at once arises whether the pattern of these services now corresponds adequately with changes in the world political situation since 1953.

The Drogheda Committee made a number of recommendations for improving the services, which noble Lords have mentioned. They were: that the General Overseas Service in English should be increased from 21 hours a day to 24; that the Arabic service should be expanded by half an hour to bridge a gap in the programme and to institute our Arabic transcription service; certain improvements to the Far Eastern programmes; additional revenue expenditure resulting from expansion of the relay facilities at Tebrau; expansion of the services in Spanish and Portuguese to Latin America, including transcription services; improvement of transmitter coverage and leasing of relay facilities in Europe. There were other recommendations, including transcription in English. The total cost of this was estimated at £620,000 per annum.

On the other hand, the Committee recommended abolition of the services to Western Europe in French, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish. A figure was quoted to the Committee by the B.B.C. of £135,000 per annum as the saving likely to result, but this assumed the retention in operation of certain transmitters now being used for these services. If the transmitters were put out of action, and resulting savings on overheads were taken into account, the total saving from these seven services would be much higher and would go a long way towards meeting the additional revenue expenditure involved in carrying out the recommendations for expansion of services already mentioned. However, in deference to representations made by Parliament and by the B.B.C., no decision has, up to now, been taken to terminate these seven Western European language services, though I can tell your Lordships that this is one of the points being urgently considered by Dr. Hill. Apart from the extra half-hour on the Arabic Service, it has not been possible so far, for reasons which I shall explain, to carry out these expansions.

On the capital side, the Committee recommended installation of two additional high-power short-wave transmitters in the existing relay station at Tebrau, thereby completing the original plan for four such transmitters. I can assure noble Lords that this is one of the points already being considered. The total estimated cost of all these projects amounted in 1953 to £4,650,000. The Committee suggested that if they were found to be necessary the cost should be spread over a period of, say, ten years, thus involving an investment of about £500,000 a year.

To sum up, therefore, the Drogheda Committee's recommendations would have involved extra continuing revenue expenditure of over £500,000 a year and a capital sum of nearly £5 million over ten years, with some offsetting reduction from the abolition of the seven Western European services. The Committee did not, however, take into account the question of rising costs, and it is these, more than any other single factor, that have made it impossible, against the general financial and economic background, to make headway with these recommendations. The pattern of the external services has remained broadly unchanged since the Committee's Report was issued, but their cost has risen continuously, and the rate at which it has risen is increasing.

Excluding the Government's contribution to the B.B.C.'s monitoring services, which has remained fairly constant, the grant-in-aid has risen from £4,296,000, in 1952–53 to £5,193.000 in 1956–57. These figures are from original estimates, and do not include supplementaries taken out in the course of each year. Already the original provision for the current year has had to be increased by a supplementary. That is to say, these costs are now rising at a rate of between £250,000 and £300,000 a year. The need both to provide better relay facilities overseas and to renew much of the B.B.C.'s equipment at home is recognised by the Government. But until these revenue costs can be brought under control it is difficult to see how money can be provided for them, given the general need for economy in all forms of Government expenditure. As it is, although additional money was made available for the information services as a whole in 1955–56 and 1956–57, much of this has been swallowed up in rising costs. Last year, for example, although an additional £1.3 million was given to the information services, over £400,000 went to meet rising costs of the B.B.C. I agree that the winning over of men's minds is of paramount importance. But this costs money, and that is something we shall have to face when the results of the review are put before us. l repeat that the purpose of the review is to enable broadcasting to make its full contribution to our information services and for a full understanding abroad of the British point of view.

Now, with your Lordships' permission, I will turn to one or two questions which have been asked of me. The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, asked me whether a White Paper would be issued due course embodying the recommendations of Dr. Hill's investigation. It may well be that the issue of such a White Paper will be advisable, but it is too soon for me to give any undertaking with regard to it However, Her Majesty's Government do not rule out such a possibility. The noble Lord, Lord Glyn, asked what new additions or subtractions had been made in respect of the transmitter resources of the external Services of the B.B.C. Two high-power, short-wave transmitters, each of 100 kilowatts, were brought into use for relay purposes at Tebrau, near Singapore, in August, 1950; and Her Majesty's Government now propose to acquire, from the Near East Association Limited, the Near East Arab broadcasting station in Cyprus, comprising a 100 kilowatt medium-wave transmitter and five short-wave transmitters of varying power.

The noble Lord also asked me whether sufficient money is available for making full use of such resources as we have. The answer to this will come out in the review, and I should prefer not to answer this question further to-day. The noble Lord then asked me about British overseas territories in Africa. Broadcasting to colonial audiences is primarily the responsibility of the Colonial Governments of these Colonies, but the B.B.C. include in their external services programmes in English and vernaculars transmitted from this country to the Colonies, some of which are then relayed by local stations. About the middle of 1956, at the request of the Colonial Office and with the support of Her Majesty's Government, the B.B.C. made arrangements to include East Africa in the coverage of their Arabic services.

The noble Lord, Lord Glyn, also asked about a closed circuit television system installed by United States interests in the Persian Gulf. We know of no such system in the Persian Gulf, although there is a programme broadcast from the American Air Force Station at Dhahran which can be viewed in Bahrein. We are investigating reports that material hostile to the United Kingdom has been broadcast over this station. The United Kingdom has taken the initiative in developing television in the Middle East and a station installed by a British firm —Pye, Limited—is now operating in Baghdad. I understand that the further development of equipment and programmes in this area is under active consideration by British companies.

The noble Earl, Lord Bathurst, asked whether Her Majesty's Government are satisfied that foreign stations in the Middle East are broadcasting according to the rules on frequency allocation laid down at the Atlantic City Convention. I can only say that Her Majesty's Government are not satisfied that all such stations are observing these rules; but the Middle East is not the only part of the world where such non-observance is continuing. The noble Lord, Lord Bird-wood, asked me, among other questions, about the relationships between the B.B.C. and the Foreign Office. I can tell him that these relationships are very satisfactory, and I should like to commend the fine work done by the B.B.C. in broadcasting at home and overseas.


My Lords, before the noble Earl finishes, may I ask him to reply to one more question? I am most grateful to him for the full and careful reply that he has given so far. The question to which I should like him to reply, if he can, is: can he give a rough idea of how long Dr. Hill's inquiry into the Overseas Information Services is likely to take? Will it be a matter of months, or a year, or longer?


My Lords, I regret that I cannot answer the noble Earl's question except to say that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has started his inquiry and is carrying it on with the greatest speed he can. He will produce his review at the earliest possible moment.

I think we have had an excellent debate. Many interesting viewpoints have been expressed which will be of use to Dr. Hill in his deliberations on the Overseas Information Services. I think your Lordships will agree that any decision as to whether or not extra provision must be made for the external services of the B.B.C. must await the result of the review now being undertaken. The fact that Dr. Hill has been given this task is an earnest of the Government's intention to improve our information services. I can assure noble Lords that the important points which have been made this afternoon by Lord Strang and other noble Lords who have taken part in the debate will be taken fully into account by Dr. Hill in arriving at his conclusions.

5.52 p.m.


My Lords, before begging leave to withdraw the Motion standing in my name, I should like to offer my warmest thanks to those noble Lords who have spoken in this debate—not only those who have spoken in support of my Motion, but those also who have taken a somewhat different line. I thank them all impartially. I would also take the opportunity, if I may, of tendering congratulations to the noble Earl who replied to this debate. It is, I think, the first time that he has answered in a debate on behalf of the Foreign Secretary, since his appointment. Therefore, our congratulations are due to him. I should, further, like to thank him for the great care with which he has answered many of the questions put to him by noble Lords during the debate. That is not to say, though, that I find his reply, as a whole, satisfactory. Far from it, But it is not my intention to reopen the debate now; no doubt there will be a later occasion.

Nor is it my intention, at the moment, to comment on the views expressed by the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, and the noble Earl, Lord Halifax. Both noble Earls speak with great authority, and what they say deserves most careful study. I am sure they would not expect me to express agreement with them. One thing, I think, is clear: the Lime has come when there ought to be a new and comprehensive statement of Government policy about external information services as a whole—not simply broadcasting services, but Government Departmental information services and the British Council. The time is due for that. As regards broadcasting policy, I think there has been nothing authoritative since the White Paper of 1946. I would strongly urge. therefore, that when the review now being made by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is completed—and we hope that it will be completed soon—there should be a comprehensive statement of Government policy which will cover the important points raised by the noble Ear], Lord Swinton, and the noble Earl, Lord Halifax. That is why I wish to support the plea made by the noble Earl. Lord Listowel, for a White Paper, when the Government are in a position to state their views. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.






Referred to the Committee on Unopposed Bills.






Referred to a Select Committee: the Committees to be proposed by the Committee of Selection.

House adjourned at six minutes before six o'clock.