HL Deb 12 February 1958 vol 207 cc637-40

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 specific measures are being taken to ensure that the success of the Prime Minister's Commonwealth tour, particularly in the Asian countries, is fully appreciated abroad; and whether such measures will include the wide circulation of films, photographs and Press reports from the countries concerned with a view to full publicity in countries with little knowledge of the Commonwealth.]


Yes, my Lords. Special arrangements were made by the Government. Information Services for the receipt and rapid distribution of the Prime Minister's speeches and other Press material fully covering the Commonwealth tour. All this material was widely distributed by wireless through the Overseas Press Services of the Central Office of Information to all British Information posts throughout the world. During the visit to India, Pakistan and Ceylon the daily transmissions to both Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth countries carried comprehensive reports. Descriptive articles were also widely disseminated; many of these were prepared specially for Middle East, Far East and Commonwealth countries. Press comment from Commonwealth countries and the full texts of speeches were regularly supplied to the external services of the B.B.C., the foreign Press and the Press agencies.

A special film introducing the Prime Minister's tour was made for the Commonwealth Relations Office and newsreels and television material has also been provided to overseas countries. A film from newsreel coverage is being compiled for general overseas distribution, and a short Commonwealth television item, presenting an Asian view of the tour, has been sent to Canada. Over 70,000 copies of a feature poster carrying ten to twelve pictures of the tour will shortly be despatched to Commonwealth and foreign countries. So far, about 2.000 photographic printing plates and 660 Press prints covering the tour have been given world-wide distribution and more will be distributed.

The colour magazine Commonwealth Today, which has a circulation of about 300.000, is giving full coverage to the tour, and the next issue will carry special comprehensive treatment. The magazine is translated into Thai, Sinhalese, Chinese, Tamil, Vietnamese, Burmese, Malay, Swahili, Hausa and Fijian. A round-up item of the tour will be recorded in the fortnightly Commonwealth Survey. I hope that the noble Lord will be satisfied, having heard that reply, that a considerable amount of publicity is being given.


My Lords, I thank the noble Earl very much indeed for his very complete answer, indicating the full measures that have been taken. Is the noble Earl able to say at this stage whether or not these full measures have been effective in so far as Iron Curtain countries are concerned?


My Lords, I will certainly look into that matter and communicate with the noble Lord, but apart from the Iron Curtain countries the coverage given, from what I have seen of the Commonwealth Press and the Press of other countries of the free world, has been as satisfactory as it could possibly be.


My Lords, could we be told upon which Vote of Supply this particular expenditure, which must be considerable, will be carried?


My Lords, will let the noble Viscount know, if he will put down a Question. On whatever Vote it has been carried, the expenditure has been worth while.


My Lords, the noble Earl will probably know that the Prime Minister's effort, and especially his visit to India, is very much appreciated. But what would be of value would be to have extracts from the Press of the Communist countries as to what they think of our policy. That would be useful to us: not what is turned out and published to us, but what is said by people to whom we are making an appeal. Is that possible?


My Lords, I will consider all the suggestions which have been made. I was answering the original Question on the Order Paper.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl, in the interests of historical accuracy and for the benefit of the record, whether steps will be taken to make sure that what was done and said by the Prime Minister, which obviously gives him and his hearers the greatest amount of satisfaction, will be shown as attributable to those who are now Her Majesty's Opposition?


My Lords, in the interest of historical accuracy, would the noble Lord, Lord Mathers, perhaps agree that the record could go a little further back and point out which principles were borrowed or taken from a previous Government?


My Lords, I think all these researches will really have to go into the dim future to establish anything worth while. But the main point, I think, is that all three Parties are in harmony as to Commonwealth policy.


My Lords, I am not sure that the noble Earl was right in saying that my request was not referred to in the Question. I would ask him, on its merits, whether he does not think it would do more good if we heard what other people think about us than if we advertise what we think about ourselves?


My Lords, if the noble Viscount will put down a series of Questions asking me what other people think about us, I will do my best to answer them.