HL Deb 27 February 1957 vol 202 cc71-3

2.47 p.m.


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

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they can give a statement showing (1) the situations of the offices of the British Council in France, and the nature of the activities carried out from them; (2) the expenditure on each office for the last year for which figures are available; and (3) the amount of the economies it is proposed to effect in such expenditure.]


My Lords, the British Council has one office and a library in France, which are situated in separate buildings in Paris. The activities conducted from them are:—

provision of information on British educational, cultural and scientific matters;

provision of central library services in Paris and supply of British books to libraries in the Consulates in Strasbourg, Bordeaux and Marseilles, in the University of Lille, and at Lyons in collaboration with the Association France-Grande Bretagne;

encouragement throughout France of British cultural manifestations. e.g., lectures, book, photographic and art exhibitions, theatrical and musical performances;

recruitment for British Council courses in Great Britain, and for awards of British Council scholarships and bursaries;

liaison with the autonomous British Institute in Paris; and, finally,

supply of material about Britain to British Interchange Teachers and Assistants in French schools.

The actual net expenditure on the Paris office and library in the year ending March 31, 1956, was £27,204. In addition, the council granted subsidies to the British Institute in Paris and to Anglophil associations, which amounted to £3,497. It is hoped to make certain economies in administration and overheads by housing the present office and library in one building.

Despite rise in costs, there has been an economy of over £20,000 in the budget for France since 1950, entailing the abolition of all the Council's offices in the provinces. The work will be reviewed by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in the course of his general survey, but I am bound to remind your Lordships that there is a minimum below which it cannot fall if we are to carry out the Anglo-French Cultural Convention and to give the necessary support to the wide exchanges in the cultural field which exist between ourselves and the French.


My Lords, I beg to thank the noble Earl for his comprehensive Answer. May I ask him this further question? Do the Treasury exercise any control over the activities of the Council in so far as those activities may be designed to achieve the objectives which they have in view?


My Lords, although that is somewhat outside the scope of the noble Viscount's original Question, I can inform your Lordships that the British Council is subject to the financial control of the Treasury in exactly the same way as Departments of the Government.


My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that many people who are concerned about the maintenance our good relations abroad feel that what is being done in France does not sound very much. We ought to be willing to meet whatever proper burden has to be met to see that those relations are properly maintained.


My Lords, I agree with the substance of what the noble Viscount has said, but, as I stated in my original Answer, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is undertaking a review. No doubt he will take into consideration the views which the noble Viscount has just expressed.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl whether the Government will consider making use of the services of Scotsmen, who are already citizens of France and, therefore, can he of more use in this connection than any other members of the British Empire?