HL Deb 26 March 1963 vol 248 cc84-141

3.43 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, I will now return to the subject of Government information services overseas. In a way, it is appropriate that we should have been interrupted for a few minutes to think about some of the problems of overseas policy, because I would maintain the proposition that information is one of the most powerful long-term instruments of foreign policy, and one that can play a large part in determining the way our foreign friends and enemies behave.

Your Lordships will recall the last act of Shaw's St. Joan, when the Dauphin is cross-examining the spirit of St. Joan and she is asking him how he has got on since she died. He replies that he has done very well militarily but that he thinks one good treaty is worth a dozen victories. That has always been my view, and I believe that the information services are the background which can provide the basis of good treaties. The more we reach a stalemate in arms—which simply means an enforced and recognised draw—the more important do information services become.

I spent much of my time during the war building and operating machinery for the Government to assess the effect of the Government information services at home, and in doing this work I learned many useful lessons, which in my view have equal application abroad; because the behaviour of English people is not so very different from the behaviour of foreign people when they receive information from an official source, whatever that source may be. I have tried to think out, on the basis of my own experience, what are some of the principles which have universal application in Government information work.

The first is that, in the long run, truth wins. In the short run, it may not. We saw during the early days of the war, during Nazi rule in Germany, how falsehood could win for a time. It follows that the long-term policy of Her Majesty's Government is all-important. A short-term policy, doing a bit of propaganda or information work, however honestly and well done, is of limited value unless we are prepared to go on as long as, indeed longer than, those with whom we are competing. The fallacies of the "Stop and Go" policy applied to information services are very great indeed, as the noble Viscount was saying in respect of the B.B.C.

The second principle is that every recipient of Government information tends to judge its truth by his own personal experience. If the information he receives does not accord with what he knows about, he tends to discredit the lot. This means that everybody doing overseas work and endeavouring to introduce local colour and local information must he very careful to get this accurate; because it is on the accuracy of what the recipients know about that the accuracy of the whole will be judged.

The third lesson which I learned forcibly was that the most powerful medium was personal contact. One of the jobs which the Ministry of Information (as it was then called) was given during the war was to persuade people to have their children inoculated against diphtheria. This was something quite new. Nobody had done it before. It was a very good and sensible thing to do, but nobody quite knew how to do it. All kinds of Government information services were brought into play and it was the job of the Social Survey Department, which I was looking after, to try to assess which method worked best. We found that, when it came to getting anything done, the important thing was the personal contact with doctors, health visitors and district nurses. This was far more powerful than advertisements or Press announcements, or even pictures in the cinemas. I think that this lesson has been learned by the Government information services generally, and they are more and more using the personal angle in their work and thereby making themselves more effective.

The next principle, which is simply the corollary of the previous one, is that, after personal contact, the second most powerful agent was the B.B.C. in Britain. And the reason why the B.B.C. was so powerful was because the people of Britain were satisfied that it always spoke the truth, or as much of the truth as it could find out. It never gave anything in the way of "doctored" news: it was operated with complete integrity. That was the secret, which remains the secret of the B.B.C., and the secret of its foreign broadcasts as well.

A further principle we found was that the impact of any information varies inversely with the square of the distance, which is rather an elaborate way of saying that what happens next door is more important to most people than what happens a hundred miles away. I remember that, during the war, when Singapore fell the "Scharnhorst" and "Gneisenau" sailed up the Channel. The British people were much more upset about the "Scharnhorst" and "Gneisenau" than about the fall of Singapore, though undoubtedly the latter was of great importance. But the German warships were right on our doorstep and created a furore among the ordinary British people—unless they happened to have relatives in Singapore. This is a very important thing to remember in our information work. What happens immediately adjacent is interesting, and producers of information must remember that it must have a real interest and relevance to the people who are listening to it. It is no good giving a highbrow and obscure lecture to ignorant peasants who need instruction about primitive agriculture or the elements of reading. I would say that this lesson has been pretty well learned.

The next principle is that the long-term attitude of the recipient is determined largely by this own personal experience. When a British person gets to know well a friend overseas, that is likely to have far more effect than a hundred pamphlets. One good British machine, which does its job properly and does not break down, is worth a thousand export leaflets or press advertisements. A Briton who goes overseas to do a job of work is doing a first-class job as an instrument in the process of information.

I do not think that the noble Viscount is right in thinking that our behaviour when we go abroad for our holidays is worse than it used to be. There have always been some Britons who have behaved badly. This has happened for centuries. One can think of Smollett and others, who knocked about the Continent in the most wild way. But I think that, on the whole, British people behave reasonably well. Though it is worth reminding them that the more they can get to know and be friends with people of other countries, the better our overseas relations will be in the long term.

One thing that is frequently forgotten is that information should be for mutual advantage. I was pleased to see this stressed in the short account of policy of the British Council. It is not a question of simply doing something for the advantage of the United Kingdom; it is for the advantage of the United Kingdom and the recipient, as well. Unless we bear that in mind, it is quite useless. Which of us wants to receive information from another country which is put out solely for his own country's benefit? It is like mercy: it ought to bless him that gives and him that takes. The Nazis, again, tried to give this one-sided kind of information, this unilateral propaganda, and it just did not work. But it is worth remembering that, when it comes to the Communists, they believe most firmly that their philosophy will benefit the recipients, and in that way they do not resemble the Nazis.

I was wondering whether it is possible to define the philosophy which we are trying to put over through our information services. I suppose it is almost impossible, and yet I should like to feel that it was a sore of pragmatic utilitarianism, though that is hardly a battle cry for anything. I suppose that we all desire, in the long run, to provide the greatest happiness for the greatest number, with everybody gaining equally; and that is perhaps the underlying philosophy for which we are working when we are dealing with other countries. But the Americans have a better way of putting it, in those memorable words that All men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among which rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I hope that that is the philosophy working behind our information services.

The next principle I would lay down is that the best of all information is education. All over the world there is now an immense hunger for education, and first for technical and scientific education; and the basis for that has to be literacy. Here it is a matter of education in their own countries, and education, so far as we are concerned, of foreign nationals and Commonwealth nationals here in Britain. The first step, again so far as we are concerned, is the teaching of English, to which the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, referred.

The last principle which I think is important is that in any information work it is vital to study the impact of what one is doing on the recipient: to study the effect of Government information services on the people who are getting the information; first of all, to know how many are getting it, and, secondly, to know what their attitude is. That is what we were doing during the war, and what, to some extent, the Central Office of Information, through its social surveys division, still does in home affairs when it is assessing, for example, the effectiveness of Government propaganda in recruiting for the Services, or in any other Government-sponsored advertising campaign.

To do this properly, it is vitally important to know where to put the maximum effort. It can be done, although it is not easy, because it involves studying what is happening in the country, asking people if they have seen or heard certain things, and trying to do sampling. This might sound to be a hopeless task in a foreign country; but it is not. Many of them have their own private "Gallup Poll" organisations operated commercially, and I cannot see why they should not be quite properly rented in order to find out the effectiveness of overseas broadcasting, or what you will. I am sure that the commercial organisations in this country who carry out surveys, provided that they do it honestly and openly, can do so for anybody, and I do not think the Government would interfere.

I think it is important that the people who assess the impact of Government information services should not be the same as those who are giving the stuff out. Otherwise, they tend to find that what they are giving out is all right. The ideal is that there should be in each of the Embassies or High Commissioners' Offices overseas somebody whose job it is to make what I can only describe as social studies of the behaviour and attitude of the ordinary people in the country to which our information services are directed, and who would be watching all the time to see what the impact was and whether we were getting over what we intended to get over. Those are all the general observations that I wish to make.

I shall now make a few (and they will be few) specific observations, and I will try not to repeat what has already been said by the noble Viscount. I think that, in general, the quality of our Overseas Information Services is excellent, but the quantity is still far too small. We still think in terms of massive armed forces, and we should be thinking in similar terms—I do not say massive, but fairly massive—about teachers, engineers, scientists, doctors, writers, journalists, film makers and broadcasters; for these are the real agents of an enlightened foreign policy. I think that of the three major Government agencies, the British Council, to which the noble Viscount referred, has increased its expenditure most since the White Paper in 1957 or 1958. This is probably correct, and it is the right emphasis. My noble friend Lord Lucan will be dealing in rather greater detail than I shall with some aspects of the work of the British Council, and particularly the work for students and overseas offices. I want to mention students, quite briefly, and also the value of the visits organised to this country. They also organise visits from this country; but it is the visits to this country of all sorts of experts and specialist people with which one is particularly concerned.

I have inquired about what are the things which impress foreign visitors most, and I am told that two things stand out, if they have seen them: one is the New Towns, and the other is Coventry. These are the things which really strike the average visitor from overseas. No doubt it is a good thing for the visitor to take home a lot of coloured films of the Changing of the Guard, of Windsor Castle, and so on; but the things which have a real relevance to his life are physical reconstructions on a really large scale. I cannot help feeling it is a pity that we have not more New Towns to show our foreign visitors. And what a pity it is, in a way, that we are not starting more cathedrals! I think one often forgets how many Africans are deeply Christian people and are greatly impressed to see the British people build- ing a cathedral. I suppose Coventry Cathedral was largely built with Government money, through war damage—in fact, I know that it was. I do not see anything wrong with building a cathedral; I think it is a good thing to do. One of the strange accidental effects is the feeling it gives our friends from overseas that this country is not a decadent race, but a believing race, full of vigour.

There is one small practical point about these visits, and that is the danger of over-programming. Anybody who has been on one of these official tours will know how boring they can become for the recipient. I know that this is in the minds of those who organise them, but I do not think they are quite harsh enough with themselves. One really ought to say that two days in every week are free. You need two free days. One's time tends to get filled up, as sure as can be, simply by somebody offering some extra hospitality. You need one day a week when you are making these vigorous tours, when you can put up your feet, not get up quite so early, and not dash quite so far. So I would urge that over-programming be avoided at all costs.

One word about students in this country: my noble friend Lord Lucan will deal with them at greater length. I want to compare their position for a moment with the position of the students in Russia. Of course the students in Bulgaria did not have such a pleasant time, but with regard to the students in Russia one of the things which strikes one is the enormous number of African students at the University of Moscow and in the technical colleges of Russia. They are paid a small salary of 90 roubles a month. Post-graduates receive 150 roubles a month; they also get free tuition. It is just enough for them to live on. The food costs 3 roubles a day, so that takes nearly all their 90 roubles, but their lodgings cost only 1.5 to 5 roubles a month, depending upon whether there are two, four or six in a room. So they can just scrape through without any external grant.

This makes a tremendous appeal to these students. One can see it perfectly well. They say: "We come over here"—and I talked to many of them—" and they give us a very good do. It is not luxury". It certainly is not: they live in extreme discomfort. The first year they are taught to understand and read Russian. That is the first job, and the whole of their first year is devoted to this. Thereafter, they can begin their proper pedagogic studies. They do not pay anything for extra fees, and books are very cheap. The libraries are good, and there are many lending facilities, so the students do not have to buy textbooks. Incidentally, they do not have to go to the Marxist-Leninist lectures—at least, the ones I met did not. Such lectures are, in most cases, optional. But the students felt a longing for any British newspapers that could be sent out. That was a personal thing one noticed.

The students said that the technical standard of the teaching they received in Russia was very high. The lecturers and professors were kind, going slowly for them when they knew they came to a difficult bit. The final contrast was their popularity with the ordinary general public. We do our best, though not so extensively as the Russians. There is such an emphasis inside Russia on the feeling one ought to have, the moral compunction to have a warm feeling towards coloured people, particularly from Africa, that they are popular everywhere with the general public. That is all I wished to say about students in this country, except to emphasise how important it is that, in the months and years ahead, when the pressure on our universities will increase, we should not reduce the percentage of foreign and overseas students that we take in.

Now just a word or two about the Central Office of Information. Here again there has been a steady increase in expenditure since the White Paper of 1957. There is greater regionalisation and localisation of the material put out. I think the Overseas Press Service, which used to go out in about five regionalised forms, now goes out in about 23 regionalised forms. More and more the C.O.I. try to show Nigerians or Ghanaians, so that when the material goes to the country it has a local and a personal interest. I am sure that that is right.

The C.O.I. are developing (and here I think the noble Viscount did not quite do justice to them) their own television films for free or cheap distribution to the increasing numbers of television stations overseas. Unfortunately, they cannot earn any money by them because, as the noble Viscount said, these television stations are simply prestige stations. They are ridiculous, really: it is a misspending by these developing countries. They are putting up television stations just because the Joneses next door in the next country have one, even though they have only 200 people with television receivers. They are trying to fill far too many hours with programme time. There is no money to be made, but they are pleased to have Central Office of Information documentaries and newsreels from Britain, which is a good thing. They are getting a great many cheap American commercial films—cheap because they have "done their stuff". They have lived their life and earned their money, and anything they may earn on these services is a little extra for their owners. I feel it is a pity that Her Majesty's Government wound up the Crown Film Unit a number of years ago. It would have been so useful and such a good thing to have it operating alongside the excellent commercial producers of different countries who are working for the Government, and we could do even better than we are doing now in that respect.

Strangely enough, the C.O.I. also arrange tours and look after visitors, and for a long time I could not understand why some of the visitors who came to see the New Town where I was working came under the ægis of the British Council and others under the ægis of the C.O.I. The division is that the specialists are looked after by the British Council, and the "generalists"—such people, for example, as journalists, trade union officials, Government officials, local government officers, and so on—are looked after by the Central Office of Information. I well remember that a little while ago we had a charming party of Burmese politicians, including the leader of the Burmese Communist Party. His colleagues were pulling his leg all the time. I took them to an old inn called "The Old Mill" at Harlow, and as we came through it one of these Burmese gentlemen turned to me and said: "This reminds me of the 'Admiral Benbow' in Treasure Island." I said, "What on earth do you know about that?" and he said: "We did it for our school certificate." That shows how education has played its part in altering British attitudes.

One last word about broadcasting. It is in this sphere that the "Stop-go" policy since 1958 has been most marked. I do not propose to raise again the points mentioned by the noble Viscount, but I think he was quite right. We have not used broadcasting overseas as we should; it has been used as a tactical weapon rather than as a strategic one. It is a long-term process, as the noble Viscount rightly said, and to do any good one has to go on and on, and build up an audience slowly. If one stops and tries to start again, that audience has gone; and, incidentally, one's expert staff has gone as well. This, alas ! has happened over the years. The evidence of this, for all to see, is available in a very good lecture which Mr. Tangye Lean, the Assistant Director of External Broadcasting, gave on March 13 last, when he emphasised these very things. He explained exactly how at the end of the war we had a position of supremacy, and how we have slowly been overtaken, first by Moscow, then by Peking, and, of course, by the United States, and that we are now reaching a stage where we are being caught up by Egypt.

All this would be so cheap to do, relatively, as compared with any other form of active foreign policy. This is one of the cheapest ways of going about it, and it is a very powerful thing, provided it is being received. Here, again, I would return to something I was saying at the beginning, that it is vitally important all the time to be trying to make a scientific assessment of the impact of the country's information services. One is casting one's bread upon the waters in the hope that it will return to one and it might be good to have a continuous look at where it is falling. I would urge the Government therefore to try to build up machinery to do this very thing.

I hope that the Government have read this lecture most carefully and of the difficulties which are occurring, particularly in the Near East and the Far East, where, in one case, Moscow and, in the other case, Peking are very well sited for medium-wave services. It is medium-wave services which these people need more than short-wave services, if it can possibly be done, because a short-wave set is a much more tricky thing to operate and more expensive; and, of the tremendous numbers of receivers which the noble Viscount mentioned, the great majority among the poorer people of this world—and those are the people whom we particularly ought to be reaching—are medium-wave sets.

Policy has been to cut off an external service where it appeared to be not really needed, but time and again the area concerned has turned out to be the very place where it was needed. Everything seems to be quiet in one particular area, so it is decided, as an economy, to get rid of the particular external service for the area, and then suddenly things go wrong, difficulties are encountered and the need for an information service on a large scale—to France, shall we say?—arises: and the service has been cut. This is the strangest and worst way possible to run an information service. I do hope that the Government, while accepting the bouquets which I have tried to offer them for their other information services—and, on the whole, I think their quality is excellent, even if they are too small in quantity—will now try to give thought continually to their external broadcasting services, or the B.B.C.'s external broadcasting services, and steadily increase them in volume and in power and in the amount of medium-wave transmission so that they can match, and in due course overtake, those of other great nations of the world.

4.14 p.m.


My Lords, in July, 1958, the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, introduced a Motion on our Overseas Information Services on which we had a most valuable discussion, and I am grateful to my noble friend for raising it again now. I am sure the discussion will be as valuable as it was then. I should also like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, most cordially for his extremely helpful and useful speech to which we have just listened.

In our overseas policies of every kind—foreign policy, Commonwealth policy, colonial policy and trade policy—and in our endeavours to advance civilisation in developing countries, we must continually propagate knowledge of our ideas and, at the same time, counteract falsehood and deception in almost every part of the world. If I occasionally use the word "propaganda" in the few remarks I shall make, I hope your Lordships will understand that I do not attach any discreditable significance to this word. Its true and traditional meaning is the propagation of knowledge, not necessarily false or tendentious knowledge. I think in the First World War people in this country got into the habit of using the word to describe enemy propaganda, possibly because it took us a long time to wake up to the idea that we ought to do the same. Since then there has clung to this word a faint odour of distaste, but I do not think that is justified by any good etymological reason.

In our lifetime the means of disseminating knowledge have immeasurably increased, so have the means of receiving it, though not always the means of understanding it. Far more people have small wireless transistor sets; more people have learned to read a little, though this does not mean that they have learned to use their faculty of reason. It means that it is much easier for them to hear and to listen to propaganda without judging it. Therefore, propaganda is now one of the most potent instruments of foreign policy.

As the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, I think rightly, said, in this country public opinion has been slow to approve Government action in this field. We have started behind many others. People did not think it was right that the Government should do this type of thing in time of peace, and, of course, it is very easy to find fault with almost any branch of our information services in almost any part of the world. I have often done so myself. I think, as the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, argued, that our information services have grown better and stronger—and certainly they have grown more expensive—in the last ten years, particularly since the Drogheda Report and the White Paper published in 1954 and republished in 1957, which was based upon it. But, of course, they are by no means perfect. Neither is any information service in the world perfect—even the vast Communist propaganda machine, which permeates into every part of life in the countries which they are trying to subvert. They commit many stupidities and follies and many errors in psychology. The United States information machine, on which more than three times as much money is spent than we can afford to spend, occasionally makes mistakes and is susceptible of possible improvements.

So, of course, is ours, and we must always consider whether we are spending as much money on it as we ought to spend, and whether the money we can spend is being used to the best advantage. Since the means of communication are continually changing and developing we have also to keep thinking all the time whether we have the right proportion between sound broadcasting, television, cinematograph films, literature, personal visits and speaking tours, cultural and educational work.

Since the Ministry of Information was abolished after the end of the war, its overseas work has been continued with more than one Minister responsible. The three responsible Ministries are the Foreign Office, the Commonwealth Relations Office and the Colonial Office; and, of course, the Board of Trade, although its Minister is not directly responsible, has a very strong interest. So also has the Central Africa Office. This division of responsibility was approved by the Drogheda Report, quoted in the White Paper, which says: The existing system of decentralised control is based on the principle which we believe is sound, that since propaganda is an instrument of policy responsibility for it must be separately vested in the Ministers responsible respectively for Foreign, Commonwealth and Colonial Affairs, with the President of the Board of Trade holding a watching brief to ensure that the commercial interests of the country are adequately taken care of in our propaganda all over the world.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Earl, but it is not, I assure him, a hostile interruption. He has given us a list of the Departments doing this work, and the Ministers responsible. Does Mr. Deedes come into it as Minister Without Portfolio? I am not quite clear about that.


I have not yet finished the list. Mr. Deedes does not come into this it is Mr. Vosper who comes into it. There has always been a co-ordinating committee, which used to be under Dr. Hill, but now there is a Cabinet Committee on overseas information, which is presided over by my right honourable friend the Secretary for Technical Co-operation, Mr. Vosper. He has lately carried out a very thorough review of the whole of our overseas information services to see whether we need to spend more money and what changes we ought to make; and in a few moments I will try to give your Lordships a brief summary of what the Government have decided to do as a result of Mr. Vosper's inquiry.

The three agencies through which our information services operate have been, I think, fairly exhaustively described by my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard and the noble Lord, Lord Taylor. These are the Government information services, the British Council and the B.B.C. The information services have officers wherever it is important enough, if they are allowed to go there. Their job is to keep in touch with the Press, to give the Press in the foreign countries to which they are assigned such information as we think is useful to be published and which the Press of that country will accept. They have to arrange personal visits and speaking tours. They have to help the B.B.C. in the B.B.C.'s activities, and they act as agents for the B.B.C. in the countries where the B.B.C. has no office of its own. They also have to distribute printed literature of such kinds as is judged worth publishing and distributing. They also find uses for documentary films which are sent to them, and television reels. And they also very often arrange for visual programmes and exhibitions.

The noble Earl, Lord Lucan, who is going to speak in this debate, travelled with me in 1957 to Virginia, and he may perhaps remember the great historical exhibition at Jamestown. I think we all agreed—and, what is more important, I think the Americans all agreed—that the best feature of that exhibition was the British Pavilion, where there was a wonderfully-got-up pictorial history of British colonial policy since 1600 up to the present day. Thousands of Americans saw that every week. It had a great deal of effect and did a great deal of good, especially as it gave British colonial policy in a perspective which is not always appreciated by the inhabitants of the United States.


Did it include the Boston Tea Party?


They did that in one of theirs! Then there is the British Council, and I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, for the full justice he did to its work. Its main activities are the teaching of English, either in British Council institutes or by establishing professorships at universities in the countries where they work. It also maintains libraries and distributes books. Here I do not think I need add anything to what the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, said about the way in which it looks after students, which is one of its most useful, creditable and humane activities in this country.

The third agent is the British Broadcasting Corporation, or rather its foreign services. Your Lordships may occasionally have noticed that the home service of the B.B.C. is not in any sense an agent of the Government. It often publishes features which are not at all helpful to the policy or the credit of the Government. It sometimes even produces scoops which may be embarrassing to the Government in its foreign policy. Anybody who criticises the B.B.C. for doing this sort of thing—whatever angle the criticism comes from—is always extremely careful to say, "Although of course we think this is wrong, the Government must not do anything about it. It would never do if it were thought the Government were influencing the B.B.C." That is very right at home. But in the overseas services things are not the same. There the Government pay the expenses incurred by the B.B.C. and the B.B.C. co-operates with the Government in producing the features which we agree will best carry out the aims of British policy and the needs of the Free World. It has its general overseas programme in English. It has its foreign language programmes in most parts of the world. It also helps our information services, very often by producing the television reels here.

Of course, the techniques with which all these information services are worked must vary in accordance with the character of the country in which they operate. We want to have services not only in countries which are neutral, uncommitted, or in countries which are hostile and which we want to convert, but also in friendly countries like the United States and Canada. In the United States, although I am sorry to say that the amount of money spent there on our information services has lately been cut down in order to provide more in other places, it is still the largest item, the country where we spend most, and it is very necessary; although they are a friendly country whose policy and whose world objects and ideals and way of life are the same as ours, owing to historical reasons and distance there are enormous potentialities for misunderstanding. We have got a senior information officer at our Embassy in Washington and the main centre of our information services is, of course, in New York. Their main branch of activity is arranging personal visits, speaking tours and, of course, liaising with the radio network to which they give a great many features, which are well listened to, putting the British point of view.

Canada is also a very important country, of even vaster width one side to the other than the United States, and with a growing, young population. When I went there on a speaking tour at the end of 1956 I thought, and I said so to your Lordships when I came back, that although the people employed were wholly admirable, the scale of our services in Canada was miserably inadequate. That was at the end of 1956 and I think they have been greatly expanded since then. Perhaps my noble friend, the Minister of State for the Commonwealth Relations Office, when he winds up the debate may find time to say a word or two, not only about Canada but about other parts of the Commonwealth.

Then there is the Middle East, one of the most difficult places, where in recent years we have had a major expansion of our effort, especially in the field of broadcasting. The B.B.C.'s Arabic service broadcasts there for twelve hours a day. It is widely listened to and much respected, and its audience is steadily increasing. The noble Lord mentioned the relay station at Berbera. We are urgently examining the question of what action should be taken as a result of the temperory loss of its use. It is, of course, a blow to the Arabic service because it will not now be so well heard in the Sudan, Aden, the Yemen, and the Persian Gulf Area, but we hope to arrange to set it up in some alternative place where it will be equally useful. We have full-time information officers in a number of Arab countries—Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, the Sudan, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait and Bahrein. In the United Arab Republic, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, Syria and Afghanistan a member of the Embassy does part-time information work. Our main effort there is broadcasting. I was glad to hear the figure of 40,000 letters given by my noble friend, Lord Massereene and Ferrard. We have means of estimating, very roughly, the increase in listeners. I shall not give any figures because that would be clearly nothing more than an intelligent guess; but it is increasing very quickly indeed.

In Africa (I shall not mention the Commonwealth parts of it, which I hope my noble friend will do) we have information officers in Senegal, the Ivory Coast, Cameroon, both Congos, in Gabon and in the Central African Republic. There is a large British Information Services office in Johannesburg, with libraries and reading rooms at Durban and at Cape-town. There are British Council representatives in Leopoldville, Addis Ababa and Pretoria. The B.B.C. broadcast in French to West Africa for 3½hours a day. That is becoming an important medium in the area. More and more people are getting wireless sets, and they like listening. In East and West Africa reception is generally good, but in South Africa it is poor. We believe that it will be improved when the new South Atlantic relay station is set up at Ascension, which is almost exactly halfway across the South Atlantic between West Africa and Brazil. The B.B.C.'s transcription service and language-teaching series are widely used by African radio stations, and the Central Office of Information radio tapes are also well used.

The new relay station at Ascension, when it is built up, will also help us in regard to broadcasting reception in Latin America, because it is as near to Brazil as it is to Africa. There has been a considerable expansion, both of Information Services and of the British Council, in South America in the last few years. By the way, one of the particular animadversions of the Drogheda Report and the White Paper on Overseas Information Services was that little attention was being paid to Latin America. The British Council have offices in Argentine, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela, and in many countries there are British schools. The B.B.C. Latin American Service news is relayed by some 70 local stations, and reception will be greatly improved, as I said, when the Ascension station is working.


Will the Ascension station be medium-wave or short-wave, or both?


Medium-wave. In the Far East and South East Asia since the time of the Drogheda Report there has also been a considerable expansion of information and cultural work. The British Council operate in Burma, Indonesia, Thailand and Japan on a much greater scale, and the B.B.C. broadcast to the region in Burmese, Indonesian, Siamese (that was restored after being cut off for several years), in Vietnamese, Japanese and Chinese. The pattern of broadcasting is roughly half an hour per service each day, and although the reception in the area is sometimes a little difficult, these services do attract an important audience, and their reputation for truthfulness and objectivity is high.

In Western Europe our effort has not been expanded so much, although in some countries it is substantial. The largest post is in Germany, where the Information Office maintain a staff of 55 spread between Bonn and the main cities. We also have smaller staffs in Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and Portugal and we are reviewing the whole of the information effort in Western Europe, to see whether it meets our present needs.

As for the countries behind the Iron Curtain, there, of course, the problem is more difficult. Broadcasting is, and must be, our principal weapon. But there is another valuable channel for presenting British life and thought to the peoples of Russia, in the shape of cultural work conducted through the British Council. We have a full-time British Council representative in Warsaw, and we plan expansion elsewhere. Short-term agreements are negotiated with most of the countries of the bloc, and these cover exchanges of academic staff and students; visits of orchestras and drama companies. Of course we have no information staff be- hind the Iron Curtain, except in Budapest where we have one information officer with a small staff. In Russia, under a bilateral agreement which my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard mentioned, we circulate 50,000 copies of our Russian-language illustrated magazine Anglia, and opportunity is also taken to represent Britain in trade fairs and exhibitions.

The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, asked what was the moral object of our policy. He quoted as a possible principle the American Declaration of Independence, with which most of us agree: that a man has a right to life, opportunity and the pursuit of happiness. It does not say anything about his catching it, but that he has a right to pursue it. Perhaps a more up-to-date principle is the four freedoms, also partly of American origin: freedom from want, freedom from fear, freedom of speech and freedom of religion. We can agree with the Communists on the first, freedom from want; but not on the other three. We believe that, if we could persuade them to agree on those, we could get on much better and that peaceful co-existence might become a reality. They are always engaged in trying to subvert us. Our objective is not subversion, but conversion. When we say "conversion" we do not mean converting them to a capitalist type of society. We do not want them to abandon economic socialism unless they want to. All we want is that they should recognise these four freedoms. We believe that if they would do that, humanity would have a much better chance of peace.

I was also most glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, talk about the difference between the long-term and short-term advantages in truth. As he said, truth may not pay in the short run; but our idea, and his, is that it will pay in the long run. We have lately seen plenty of examples in our own country of the fact that falsehood is much more interesting than truth. It is not only more interesting, but sometimes more profitable. The purveyors of untruths and of unsubstantiated rumours attract much more attention, cause much more excitement and make much more money than the people who simply tell the truth. So it is in a wider context in the world as a whole. You get much more effect for a certain time by telling lies. People, like the poor old B.B.C., who plod along and conscientiously try to get along by telling the truth, do not cause nearly so much interest or excitement.

Your Lordships are familiar, no doubt, with the not very veracious character of the mass of Arab nationalist broadcasts, and also with the forged documents which certain Governments published and disseminated, pretending that they were Cabinet papers to discredit British policy. It often takes time to catch up with that sort of thing. But I think we are catching up. The increase in our Arab listeners is evidence, I think, of the fact that in the long run people want to hear the truth. It is an interesting thing that when there is any real crisis, when there is anything really dramatic or dangerous happening in foreign affairs, we find that the number of listeners to the British broadcasts increases. When they really need to know the truth, and when they want to know it, they turn to Britain and not to other sources.

I will conclude by briefly sketching the results of the inquiry which I mentioned to begin with, which the Secretary for Technical Co-operation, Mr. Vosper, has lately undertaken. What he wanted to do was to see whether we were spending our money in the right direction, whether any economies could be effected, and what new requirements must be met. His conclusion was that, apart from some minor economies, a substantial increase of expenditure was justified. The Government have now agreed on a variety of expansions in the year 1963–64 which will raise our total expenditure from £20.8 million in the current year to £25.8 million in the year 1963–64. This is an increase of £4 million, with about £1 million for entirely new services, and the rest on extension of existing ones. For instance, in the teaching of the English language the British Council's work in this field is going to be strengthened.

The wider understanding of English is of very great importance, not just because we think it a good thing for people to know our language, but because it helps countries deriving technical assistance to get the full benefit from the training which is provided by us and conducted, for the most part, in English. The demand for English instruction from Africa, Asia and many other countries is colossal and is growing. It is almost impossible to get the staff to meet it, and we are going to give considerable new funds for the supply of teaching aids, teaching by television, and language laboratories.


Did the noble Earl say that the total was up from £20.8 million to £25.8 million?




So it is a £5 million increase. I think he said it was a £4 million increase.


I am sorry if I made a slip. I should have said £4 million as to the increased cost of existing services, and £1 million for new services.


Only £1 million for new services?


Yes. That figure was given by Mr. Vosper on January 29, in reply to a Question in another place. We are providing considerable new funds for these new teaching techniques, such as television and language laboratories. I expect that most of your Lordships, who are much more sophisticated and well-informed than I am, know all about language laboratories. In case there are any of your Lordships who share my own ignorance, may I tell you what a language laboratory is?

Instead of having a classroom there are little enclosures all the way round, perhaps 24 booths in each room, each booth containing a twin-track tape recorder, controlled by an instructor from a central console. The upper track of the tape recorder contains the master recording, and the student records his imitations or responses on the lower track. He can play back and compare his recording with that of the model and can repeat it until he is satisfied with his efforts. If he gets it wrong he can repeat it by himself until he gets it right, and the instructor can listen or cut in on him, as required, to correct or instruct. The effect is of several tutorials being conducted simultaneously. It is a wonderful equipment and can be put to a great variety of uses. In English-language teaching the main use is in practising drills in pronunciation, intonation, and grammar, and in oral composition.

Your Lordships will see that this method has a striking advantage over work in an ordinary classroom. If you have a three-quarter hour period in an ordinary classroom fifteen students will receive a maximum average of three minutes' speaking each—perhaps not more than two, and, if the teacher is not a very good one, only one minute; while for the remainder of the time the students will be listening to bad English, which is the worst possible form of ear-training. In the language laboratory the student can spend the whole of the period listening to good English and speaking it himself. He is not influenced by other's mistakes and receives attention from the instructor when he requires it. I only wish I had been taught French like that !

I know that many of your Lordships would like us to expand our services more quickly. I think perhaps very often the limiting factor is not the will to expand, nor even money, but sheer shortage of suitable personnel. It is very difficult to find and train good people quickly enough for the work we want them to do. The Government are very ready and anxious to listen to criticism of the services, and to suggestions for their improvement. At the same time we should all be grateful to the large number of devoted public servants in our information services, in the British Council and in the Overseas Service of the B.B.C. who are working so well both to advance the objects of British policy and to teach the principles of human freedom which we all wish to defend.

4.45 p.m.


My Lords, this is the first time I have spoken in your Lordships' House, and I pray for your indulgence. I am told that a maiden speech should be both brief and non-controversial. I can promise the first, and will try for the second. Perhaps by chance as I lose my political virginity I might breathe a fresh note into a well-debated subject.

As I have said, this speech should be non-controversial, and I am surely right when I suggest that both sides of this House are agreed that the world should be properly informed about Britain. Noble Lords before and after me will have spoken and will speak on such subjects as increasing the grant, broad- casting to Africa, priorities and so on. I will leave these subjects to those who know about them. They speak of the contents of the package: I should like to refer to the wrapping. I would therefore echo what has already been said by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor: it is not so much what we say, but how we say it.

When I was on certain committees for the British Council I pressed to persuade them to play to their audiences. In that particular instance they were trying to persuade West Indians to take their first step in drama through T. S. Eliot. They could not get the players or the audience, but when I put on a "Whitehall farce" I had three players for each part and filled the auditorium for many nights. Two years later "Venus" was "Observed" and enjoyed. It is a known fact that more people read the Daily Mirror than The Times, and I am not going to tread on anybody's toes in trying to explain why. I can promise this, however: it is nothing to do with politics.

The noble Lord, Lord Taylor quoted the American saying that "all men are born equal"; but someone else went on to say that "some are more equal than others". We are trying to "sell" Britain. Colonel Blimp would say that we have already sold it, but that is not what I mean. My noble and learned friend the Leader of the House said, not so very long ago: "Let us go into the property business". Might I say, "Let us go into the advertising business"? It is rather an unfortunate British trait that we do not learn the other chap's language: we let him learn ours. I am informed that Government Departments such as the Central Office of Information and the British Council are starved of material. This is where commercial enterprises can help a great deal, by producing palatable material; perhaps by advertising their goods in an amusing or interesting way, with an emphasis on Britain and its way of life. In righting another's point of view, you have not only to show that yours is a better one, but actually to prove it.

Another point worth remembering is that one advertisement will not be acceptable to every country. Tailor-make your material to each territory. Do not try to sell ice-creams to the Eskimos. I realise full well that it is easy to make a suggestion and quite another matter to carry it out, but I honestly believe that we shall have to begin again at square one and rethink the presentation of our image and make it more appealing. But, my Lords, let us get on with it. Let us try to forget the plain green pamphlet issued by the Central Office of Information explaining the advantage of the British coal industry, and give our information services a more appealing new look. On July 9, 1958, the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, had this to say [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 210, cols. 788–9]: To me, it is most important that we have the freest intercourse with Russia and other countries behind the Iron Curtain; that we welcome to this country delegations and cultural missions from them and that our delegations and cultural missions go to them. I still feel that we cannot do better than follow the aspiration of the late Mr. Ernest Bevin, when, as your Lordships will remember, he said: 'My aim in foreign policy is to go to Victoria and be able to buy a railway ticket to anywhere.' On March 26, 1963, we cannot even go to Birmingham from Victoria. The question we might ask ourselves is this: Apart from increasing the expenditure from £5½ million in 1957 to £25 million in 1963–64, have we progressed so much and have we made the best use of this money?

4.57 p.m.


My Lords, I am very glad that I have the privilege of offering the warmest congratulations to the noble Earl, Lord Cowley, on the speech which he has just delivered. I am sure your Lordships all enjoyed his speech, as I did, very much. I thought he made some very good points, and I very much liked the broad line of his approach. I am sure we all hope that we shall have the opportunity of hearing him speak many times in this House.

My Lords, I have been the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the British Council for the past four and a half years, and it seems appropriate that I should say one or two words in this debate about the work of the Council. Many points about the work have already been touched on, and I will try to confine myself to a few major points which have either not been touched on, or about which perhaps a little more could be said. First, what seems a formal point but is rather more than a formal point, the British Council is not a Government Department. It works under a Royal Charter, although it gets nearly all its money from the Government. It was started—perhaps this is significant—nearly 30 years ago by an initiative from outside the Government, by a number of people who thought that there ought to be some organisation, working closely with the Government but not actually a Government Department, to make Britain and the British people better understood abroad.

I think the point of view of those who founded the Council was well expressed a few years later by the third Chairman of the Council, the late Lord Lloyd, when he said: We"— he meant the British people— do not want to force people to think British: we offer them the opportunity of learning what the British think. That is an admirable sentiment, with which I am sure we all agree. But I think it is true that, in the early years of the Council's life, there was a certain amount of uncertainty as to what were the right lines on which it should work; although it was always understood from the outset that the Council would be specially concerned with the teaching of English, and would work with overseas students in this country. Particularly since the war the outlook of the Council has become much clearer, and to-day all its work, except for the very small part of its efforts which are directed towards the arts, is broadly educational.

This educational bias in the Council's work was increased by the decisions which were taken about ten years ago, after the Report made by the late Lord Drogheda. This Report recommended that the major part of the Council's activities should in future be directed towards the less developed countries, and towards educational rather than cultural work. The noble Earl, Lord Dundee, mentioned the word "propaganda". I think it would be fair to say that, although the British Council ranks as part of the information services, we do not put out propaganda. I am not saying there is anything wrong about propaganda, but merely that it happens to be outside our sphere of duties. It is, of course, a truism that in the less developed countries the need for education is extremely great. It is certainly as great. I think, as the need for many of the forms of technical aid in meeting their physical needs. There is this intense need to raise educational standards. As a result, in the undeveloped countries to-day there is a passionate and insatiable demand for education and more education, and the British Council has: become the instrument employed by Her Majesty's Government in helping to meet this need in overseas countries, whether within or without the Commonwealth, other, of course, than the remaining Colonies.

The next point I want to make is about the nature of the work done by the Council. Nearly all of the Council's work is done by invitation and in collaboration with other bodies. This, of course, is specially important in educational work. I very much agreed with certain things said by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, on this point. We are trying to help other countries. We aim to find out what these countries need and the ways in which we can offer them help and services which they could not otherwise obtain. This is not always easy to do, and to do it efficiently depends on having a great deal of informal and friendly consultation between the authorities of the countries concerned and the staff of the British Council stationed in those countries. We are fortunate to have a considerable staff of well-trained officers who are well fitted to do this work and able to establish relationships of friendly confidence in the countries in which they work. I have no doubt that this work is made easier in many countries by the fact that the British Council is not a Government Department.

Next, I should like to say a few words about various branches of the British Council's work, and I want to do so without repeating what has been said already. On English language teaching, I want to make two points which I do not think have been fully made so far. When the Council started on English language teaching, the theme or motive was simply that the learning of English was an essential step if people of other countries were to have a full understanding of English life, English institutions and English literature. But to-day there is another motive which has overtaken this, and that is that for many countries to-day English is the key to a higher education. The teaching of English is thus an essential part of the educational progress of these countries. That is why the teaching of English is a way of helping to meet this insatiable demand for education.

My second point about English language teaching is this. In the early days of the Council we concentrated on teaching English in institutes with teachers paid by the British Council. Now the task is far too big for that, and the major part of our work in English teaching is in training teachers of English, in training those who will sow the seed. It is this which has led us to go much more deeply into the subject of English teaching than we did before. When you start training teachers you begin to think, what are the right methods of teaching English? Four or five British universities are now interested in this subject, and are studying it on their own—I think this is prompted to some extent by the Council—and I am glad that, in the last quinquennium, the University Grants Committee supported this effort. This, in turn, leads to advice to foreign countries on syllabi (if that is the right plural of that horrible word "syllabus"), teaching methods, textbooks and the laboratories which the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, mentioned. One can only end this part of what one has to say by pointing out that, here again, there is a perfectly enormous demand, a perfectly enormous undertaking, and that we ought to do more than we are doing, but that depends mainly on having more trained staff.

Books and libraries I can deal with very shortly. We run libraries in nearly all the countries in which we work. In India, there are no fewer than nine. But, here again, we are up against an insatiable demand, for in some countries—and India is an example—there is really no limit to the demand for the establishment of English libraries; and, for the ones which have been set up, it has been found necessary to establish a membership and to limit it, otherwise the libraries would be hopelessly overcrowded. But it is not simply libraries for people who want to come to read. The Council libraries in university cities in India and Pakistan, for example, have arrangements whereby they provide on long loan many copies of the textbooks which students in the universities need; and this, of course, links up with the cheap textbook scheme which has already been mentioned.

On education work generally, I need say only a little. Broadly speaking, education work generally proceeds on much the same lines as the English teaching work: advice on syllabi, textbooks, methods of instruction and, above all, help in recruiting British teachers for work in the universities and work in the schools. Here again, we are up against another side of the insatiable demand because, try as we may, it is almost impossible to find as many teachers as are needed and as are asked for to fill all these posts overseas. This concerns schools as well as universities. There are many English-type schools all over the world. Many of them were founded a long time ago to serve British communities. To-day they have been turned to a wider purpose, and they provide education primarily for the children of the citizens of the countries concerned. I have visited many of these English schools in distant countries—in South America, in Turkey and in Burma. This is a rather lonely but a very adventurous and a very rewarding work, and I hope that some day somebody will write a book explaining the very splendid work which these schools have done and are still doing.

The last two heads I wish to mention are, "Specialist tours from the United Kingdom" and "Visitors to the United Kingdom from overseas", but I think that these matters have been sufficiently covered, and I have little more to say on them. However, I should like to make one or two general comments on the work of the British Council, as I see it. The first thing is that I believe that the set-up is right. I think there are great advantages in the type of broadly educational work which the British Council does, being entrusted to a body which works in close collaboration with Government Departments but which is just slightly detached from them. The reason is this: it springs from a difference between the way we in this country think of Governments and the way Governments are thought of in other countries.

In this country, we may not always feel the very deepest affection for our Government. We always dislike some of the things which any Government does, often forgetting that one of the chief reasons for having a Government is to have somebody to do the unpleasant things. But, whatever our feelings, we regard our Governments as serious, sensible and honest bodies, although no doubt prone to error. We are apt to forget that, in many parts of the world, almost any action undertaken by any Government is regarded with the deepest suspicion in the country concerned. So in dealing with educational matters it is a real advantage that we should be able to use a body which somehow represents the British people rather than any particular Government.

My second point is that I believe the nation gets very good value indeed for the amount of resources spent on the British Council. If one is thinking of the Council's work in the less developed countries, then I think it is obvious that all you can do in the way of education is money well spent; but if one is thinking of other and more developed countries, I can only tell your Lordships what I have seen for myself. As chairman of the British Council, I have visited a good many countries overseas, and when one does so it is usual for the representative in that country to give a party to which he invites not only some of the prominent people in the country but also all the returned scholars from Great Britain. I do not think that anything in recent years has moved me quite so much as the impression I have got as to the way these returned scholars think about Great Britain. They have acquired a great degree of understanding of this country; they have also acquired a deep affection for it; and there is nothing more they want to do than to come back here and visit us again, and to renew their contacts with this country. Your Lordships may say that the number of such returned scholars cannot be large enough to have any great effect. I do not think that is true, particularly if (as is, of course, the case) we take a great deal of trouble to pick out promising, lively young people to come to this country as British Council scholars.

Then, just a word about the workings, so far as the British Council is concerned, of the reviews of the information services which have been carried out in the last six or seven years. If you look at it in figures and hard cash, the British Council's expenditure, which was about £3 million a year at the beginning of this period, has risen in this coming financial year—subject, of course, to Parliamentary approval—to about £9 million. Of course, quite a bit of this increase is accounted for by rises in prices, but the fact remains that the amount of resources allotted to the Council over the last few years has increased very substantially, and this has enabled us to make a very great increase in the scope of our work and to do many things which either we were not doing at all or ware doing inadequately before because we had not sufficient funds. To-day, the Council is working in no fewer than 75 countries.

We are grateful for the way we have been treated in recent years; and if anybody asks whether we think things ought to have gone faster, or whether we want more money, I think my answer would be this. A good deal has been said in the debate to-day about the undesirability of "Stop and Go" planning in this kind of work. This applies with extreme force to a body like the British Council. The British Council is not a "fire brigade". It is no good calling it in to some particular country if there is trouble on at the moment. It is a long-term body which works for long-term results; and results can be achieved only by recruiting well-trained staff with proper qualifications. When one looks at the difficulties one gets into if one tries to build up an organisation too fast, my general conclusion is that, from that point of view, the growth of the Council's activities in the last six or seven years has been about right. But, having said that, I would admit that we hope the growth will continue.

I have a list which I could give your Lordships who want it, of things we should like to do in future years if we have more money. We should like to do more for English language teaching if there were more money for this purpose. In the West Indies and again in West Africa we have been very successful in enabling these countries to build up their own public library systems. We should like to do rather more of this work. Again, I think that in some European countries we have cut our activities too low and are not really doing as much as we need if we are going to retain the close and friendly understanding which is so important in all countries in Europe. But, my own feeling is that things have gone pretty well in the last six years, and I hope we shall be able to continue on the same lines in future years.

5.10 p.m.


My Lords, I also should like to thank my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard for raising a subject which is, without doubt, important. We all want to see a fair picture of Britain presented overseas. I think, too, that we should also want to give all the information and technical assistance to Commonwealth and foreign Governments which it lies within our power to give. It does not seem from the debate so far that your Lordships would dispute that the manner in which these services are now being performed is highly creditable to the agencies concerned. I have had a number of opportunities to see the British Council at work in Latin America, Europe, Asia and South Africa, and I would add my modest tribute to the Council and support everything that my noble friend, Lord Bridges, has said. The work they are doing is quite remarkable. The library service is wanted in every country and is efficiently run. As for the teaching of English, to which I intend to refer again later, what the Council is doing to meet some part of the insatiable demand with the resources at their disposal is beyond all praise. Therefore one can say both that these information services are doing a good job and are getting value for money, and that there has been general agreement among all who have intervened in this debate that considerably more should be spent on this complex of activities in the future.

The case for expansion is completely convincing if looked at in isolation; but taken one by one, the same sort of plea can be made for almost all the major items of Government expenditure. When, as in this instance, expansion means finding more foreign exchange, then the claim requires to be weighed very carefully against all the other demands for the spending of money overseas. I wonder what priority your Lordships would give to the information services in relation to military and police expenditure outside this country; to the costs of gathering intelligence; to the maintenance of Her Majesty's diplomatic and consular missions; to subscriptions to United Nations' organisations; and, above all, to direct aid to foreign Governments. One has to stand back a little from the picture of all our international commitments to see where the information services fit in.

I submit to your Lordships that these services, while they should certainly not be given top priority, ought to have a bigger share than they are getting now; and that share ought to come out of the direct aid we give to foreign Governments. If, for the purpose of this debate—and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, would not mind, if he were here—we accept that expenditure on defence and law and order cannot be touched, then the information services are in competition with missions abroad, with the subscriptions to international organisations and with direct aid. The most effective instruments for the exercise of British influence abroad and the presentation of a fair picture of our country are Her Majesty's Embassies and High Commissions including the consular and trade posts in their respective territories. No substitute exists for the Diplomatic Mission with an adequate and highly experienced staff, properly paid, housed and equipped for the political and commercial business of the post and for the representation of Great Britain in the social and cultural life of the country to which the mission is accredited.

Not everyone accepts that view. After the war many leading Socialists argued that, because we were relatively poorer than we used to be and politically inclined to a more equal distribution of wealth, we ought to illustrate our changed circumstances by cutting down on the standards of representation in Her Majesty's missions abroad. It was said that we ought to spend less on Diplomatic Missions and High Commissioners and more on sending out lecturers, artists, athletes, journalists, and even Members of Parliament, to impress the foreigner with the character and interests of post-war Britain. I quite agree that these popular expeditions do a great deal of good, but they ought never to be undertaken at the expense of cutting down on the official missions. This is especially true because after the losses we suffered in the war we now find it difficult to get back to the old position as an international creditor.

One knows quite well how such a situation would be handled in ordinary life. We used to be rich. A rich man calling at his bank to discuss his surplus cash can arrive on a bicycle wearing any clothes he likes; doors are held open to him and compliments fly. Another man, summoned to the bank to discuss his overdraft, is wise to put on his best coat, hire a car and have a word ready for everyone he meets on his way to the general manager's office.


Have you ever done it?


Yes, my Lords. At this moment in our history pride and prudence alike point to the maintenance of first-class standards in all our overseas missions. Unless the Ambassadors and High Commissioners are doing their work worthily and well, it is all too easy to waste money through other channels trying to impress on the people concerned the virtues and attractions of Great Britain. For this reason I would refuse to spend one penny more on the information services until I was completely satisfied that all Her Majesty's missions overseas, including all minor posts, were staffed, housed and equipped to do a really effective job as the representatives of our country at this difficult time.

Your Lordships may be interested in an example of what I have in mind. Recently I was staying with the High Commissioner at Delhi and found that he could not get the money for an executive aircraft to fly him round India, a facility which his United States colleague had at his disposal and of which he made very good use. If our High Commissioner has to rely on his motor car and public transport, it is not possible for him to attend to the great volume of business in Delhi itself and make himself known throughout the sub-continent from Kashmir to Cape Comorin. The distances are too great and the public transport system is not yet adequately developed. I contend that to provide an aircraft for the High Commissioner is part of the information service and at least as important as much of the aid which we give to the Indian Government.

This leads me to my second point: that rather more aid should be given to the personal services overseas and rather less to Governments;. I am assuming that there is a total within which we must work. The information services form the greater part of the help which we now give directly to men and women of other countries—education in all its aspects, advice and training for doctors, nurses, engineers, and administrators, books to buy and borrow, sponsored visits to Britain or just broadcasts which are picked up by the ordinary man in the street. All those are personal services. In contrast, we have the kind of aid which consists of grants and loans or shipments of goods to the Government of a developing country. These Governments are all in a hurry. We cannot blame them if they want to show quick results. A power station or a steel mill is a landmark of progress and makes a very fine passage in an election speech; but, for political reasons which we can understand, once the power station or steel mill has been completed, the country which provided the finance is hardly ever mentioned. Indeed, it is often assumed that the receiving nation had a right to the cash. Time and again the Americans have discovered this melancholy characteristic of giving aid direct to Governments.

One reason why inter-governmental aid does not produce gratitude is that there are no personal ties, to speak of, formed in this operation. On the other hand, when we do something which helps a particular man or woman, then at least there is a chance that a seed is sown which will afterwards grow. And going round India, how good is the contrast between what they say about us officially, as a Government, and the warmth of the gratitude of individuals who have known British teachers or an English university ! I felt that my noble friend Lord Bridges was absolutely right when he stressed what returning students feel like at the parties that are given for them in their own country by the British Council, when the Chairman is present. I also had the chance of attending some of those parties, and it was remarkable to see what personal ties are formed in this way.

In our shifting and uncertain world, it is hard to know what is of unassailable value, but the friendships made and the personal services rendered between men of different races are good beyond argument. I expect that I was not the only Member of your Lordships' House who read over the week-end a slightly confusing but brave, penetrating and moving book from the pen of the Bishop of Woolwich. The right reverend Prelate had some fine things to say about the supreme value of personal relationships. I should like to have him on my side: he would make the case for a shift in emphasis in our overseas aid much better than I can this afternoon.

At all events, the Government may find it useful to add to Mr. Vosper's inquiry another inquiry into the relative allocations of resources between one type of overseas aid and another. In my view, such an inquiry would show two things: first, that the proportion which is going to persons is very small compared with the proportion that is going to Governments; and, secondly, that Britain is peculiarly well placed to extend the personal services which we already render to people overseas in a greater measure for our size than any other country in the world. Among those personal services, I am most familiar with education, but I should think that the experience in other fields is much the same. Taking, then, education as an example, including the cost to public funds of educating and training students who come here from abroad, we are already spending rather more than £11 million a year on overseas education. That sum is twice the amount of the ordinary budget of UNESCO and, as anyone who has studied this organisation would be ready to admit, we can get more than twice the results for the same sum of money as they can. We can say with pride that the United Kingdom alone is doing several times more for education overseas than the United Nations. But, of course, I agree with my noble friend Lord Bridges that what we are doing comes nowhere near meeting the insatiable demand for education at all levels and in all countries.

There is one aspect of that enormous work to which, in conclusion, I should like to refer. This is something which has already been mentioned, and which constitutes a great opportunity to promote understanding and peace—the teaching of English. It is now in demand throughout the whole world; and it is not we who want to thrust English down their throats, but they who now come to us and beg us to teach them English. This is something new. Incidentally, the demand for English is just as great behind the Iron Curtain as it is in the Free World.

From 1,500 to 2,000 years ago, the Romans failed to make Latin a world, language, though later, of course, the Catholic Church had a professional interest in Latin of a very high order, To-day, English is the language of science and technology; of aid as well as of trade; of transport by air as well as by sea, and, as my noble friend Lord Bridges pointed out, it is indispensable for higher education in countries where their native languages will not carry the particular subject. It is taught to-day, to some extent at any rate, in the secondary schools of every country in the world. Thus, we have a very long start. But it is not impossible that some other language—Russian, Arabic or Chinese—might become the vehicle for world communication. If it did, it would be entirely our fault, because we and the Americans had not taken enough trouble to see that the world's first choice, the English language, became so universal a means of communication that no other tongue could possibly take its place.

It cannot be right to try to pursue too many objectives at once in this enormous field of the information services. We have not the resources to do everything really well. It seems to me to be overwhelmingly clear that the spread of the English language should be our first objective, because if we do that well the rest will follow. Here I should like to join in praising the expanding efforts of the British Council. They are, of course, absolutely right to go for teacher training rather than teaching direct; and there is a great career for any young man or woman who will study the teaching of English as a foreign language—which is rather different from teaching English to English children—and make it their life's work. I can hardly think of anything more rewarding.

To sum up what I have been trying to say to your Lordships, these information services are doing a very good job now, and their work ought to be extended, provided that it is not at the expense of the standards of Her Majesty's diplomatic Missions overseas. I hope your Lordships will agree that in the work of the services that we have been discussing to-day nothing is more important than spreading the English language and forging personal ties between men and women of different races.

5.33 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to speak for a short time in support of the Motion moved by my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard. We have had a most interesting debate, and I would endorse the remarks of my noble friend Lord Bridges concerning the maiden speech of my noble friend Lord Cowley. It was most heartening to hear from my noble friend Lord Dundee of some of the new measures proposed by the Government to augment the existing information services, which have followed the studies of the Committee presided over by Mr. Vosper last year. I know that all the agencies will appreciate and draw encouragement from these proposals.

I am going to speak, quite briefly, about only two matters. They are, first, the funds allocated to the services, and secondly, what I should like to call, and what other noble Lords have mentioned, publicising Britain's achievements abroad—and I use that phraseology rather than the word "propaganda", which can be misinterpreted. First of all, with regard to the subject of the funds available to the information services, I should not wish to disagree with my noble friend Lord Dundee, but I think he will find that the increase in the year 1963–64 is, in fact, one of £4 million, and not £5 million, including capital expenditures. I am advised that this £4 million—which, it is true, is an increase over previous years—does not represent very much in the way of increased funds when one takes into account increased British Council salaries and increased costs generally, including increased costs of printing, and the capital expenditures, largely for B.B.C. transmitters and relay stations.

My point here, while I do not wish to ask for a general increase in funds for the information services, on top of rising Government expenditures in virtually every Government Department, is that when one looks at certain figures, of which your Lordships are aware and which we have heard about recently, concerning expenditure on defence and education, one wonders whether the balance is right. For example, we are going to spend in the year 1963–64 for the total budget of the information services an equivalent of half the cost of a Polaris submarine, without armament. My noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard mentioned another example, and I am giving this one. Should not the information services get a little more by pruning—in these days one talks only of £1 million or £2 million—off defence, or possibly foreign aid. But, after all, information services are positive, and, as the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, mentioned, agents to enlighten the world on the achievements, way of life and thinking of this country.

My next point concerns publicising this country abroad, about which a good deal has been said this afternoon. Here I should like to focus attention on one matter, and that is the way the B.B.C. spend part of their money in the Overseas Service. I understand that the total funds available to the information services abroad are at the present moment apportioned roughly equally between the Central Office of Information, the British Council and the Overseas Service of the B.B.C. I do not wish to comment on that apportionment, as others of your Lordships have done, but I should like to draw attention to this matter of how the B.B.C. have been spending part of their share.

We have heard this afternoon about the relationship between the Government and the Overseas Service of the B.B.C, and I feel that, if one of my suggestions is acceptable, an agreement on this basis could be worked out between the Government and the B.B.C. As your Lordships; have heard, the B.B.C. devote 600 hours a week to broadcasting abroad. Out of this total of 600 hours, 216 hours are allocated for programmes to Europe, and 394 hours for the rest of the world. Of this total of 394 hours to the rest of the world, about 300 hours are taken by the General Overseas Service on English programmes intended for the Commonwealth, Malta, Africa and Allied recipients. This leaves just under 100 hours, or slightly under one-sixth of the total B.B.C. weekly overseas output, for non-European, non-Commonwealth and non-Allied countries. In fact, this total of slightly under 100 hours is destined for foreign countries, like the whole of Central and South America, the Far East and Russia. Many of us, when we travel abroad, appreciate listening to the B.B.C. Overseas Service, which gives a considerable amount of its time to the cricket scores, the Boat Race result, news about the weather in Britain and Allied affairs. All of these are in the Overseas Service. But should not more time be given to programmes of a sharper character, such as news of some of our achievements in this country, like building a new tunnel under the Severn, building the new Forth Bridge and designing a new nuclear reactor? Should we not have a sharper overseas programme?—because, after all, we are still trying to do business with the Commonwealth.

I also feel that some of the hours allocated to the overseas programme could and should be switched to the foreign service—which at the moment, as I have said, is slightly under 100 hours a week—and that these programmes could also be sharpened up and directed at the countries with which this country is trying to do business. We are continuously being exhorted to export, and perhaps in a few days we may be fortunate and hear about a real incentive to export, such as some form of export tax relief. But with the B.B.C. we have a ready-made machine which is able to reach Britain's potential customers all over the world and tell them what we can do, and are doing, in the spheres of science, medicine and industry.

5.41 p.m.


My Lords, this debate has produced some interesting ideas and some valuable reports from people like the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, who speaks with such authority. The noble Earl, Lord Dundonald, who has just sat down, thought that all our Overseas Information Services should be what he called "sharpened"—in other words, should be made more positive and tell more directly of the achievements of this country. That is a point where we ought to see a small red light glowing, because to many people an aggressive, boastful programme from a foreign radio station is one most surely calculated to make one turn off the set—at least in my experience. I think the people who have studied the subject, the psychologists, will know more accurately what the effect on a foreign audience would be, but I strongly suspect that any marked change in that direction might defeat itself—might have an effect the reverse of what was intended.


My Lords, may I come back to what I said? What I was endeavouring to say was that I feel we must speak the truth. But let us tell the world truthfully—not high pressure selling, but more than we are telling them at the moment—through the medium of the B.B.C., of our achievements, of which we should be proud.


I thank the noble Earl, and I quite appreciate his point, but I still think that that way lies a certain danger, and that it is for the experts, for those who are studying the effects of our overseas information abroad. My noble friend Lord Taylor emphasised the need for sparing no effort in that direction. I suspect that those who study it will know when a policy is beginning to make enemies rather than friends. The object is to establish friendship with countries with whom we have relations abroad.

Of course, as the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, said, there is no question that the official channel of communication, the Diplomatic Service, is essential. But I suspect that in most countries there is a need for some other agency divorced from direct contact with the Government and which is freer, therefore, to establish contact with other circles in that foreign or Commonwealth country. It is difficult for members of an Embassy staff to embrace the whole spectrum of the population in their acquaintance and their friendship, and I suspect that some organisation like the British Council is in a better position to reach, so to speak, the rank and file of that country.

A very wise thing was written a few years ago by Sir Paul Sinker, the Director-General of the British Council. He said: In all our work we seek a mutual advantage. Before we undertake a task we must satisfy ourselves both that it will in the long run benefit the United Kingdom and that it will be welcome to the other country concerned. It is essential that our information services should go only where they are welcome. Broadcasting is slightly different. You put your signals on the air, and they can be picked up or not as the listener wishes. In the case of an agency on the ground, so to speak, I think it is essential that it should exist only with the consent and goodwill of the host country. In those cases it is important that the Council Office should be seen to be different from the agencies of Government.

Like others of your Lordships, I have seen some of the British Council overseas offices, and very admirable they are, within the resources they have. They run admirable libraries, English classes, clubs, and all manner of activities to suit the demand of the country in which they are situated. I should like to mention one point in the Annual Report of the British Council. In a number of places the address of the overseas office is "c/o the British Embassy". I have no doubt it is very much in the minds of the Council that there is a disadvantage in the Council's office being so closely linked to the British Embassy. For instance, that is the case in Copenhagen, and running one's eye down the list one sees a small proportion of the offices that are actually in the Embassy.

My noble friend Lord Taylor mentioned the visits to this country organised by the British Council and, indeed, by the Central Office of Information as well. I should like to support his plea that the programmes for those visits should not be bounded by the conventional tourist horizon from which so many visitors to this country seem to suffer. For the holiday-maker from America and elsewhere, no doubt it is nice to see the Highlands of Scotland, the thatched cottages, Shakespeare's birthplace and the rest. But thatched cottages are not typical of the British people now, whereas housing estates and new towns are. Those are the things which show we are alive and not, as some of the propaganda abroad would tend to make foreigners think, living in the past, a State of museum pieces with a few beauty spots as well. The foreigner whom we invite to this country or who wants to come to see this country must be shown things that are really alive and which show activity, ideas, energy and the rest. I hope that all officials who organise these tours will indeed bear this in mind.

There is another aspect of overseas information with which I should like to deal, and it is an indirect one because it is the question of the overseas students who come to this country. I do not know if your Lordships realise the enormous increase there has been in the last twelve years in the foreign student population of this country. It has risen from 12,500 in 1950 to 60,000 last year. Whether the curve of the graph is still moving up I do not know, and perhaps the noble Duke who is to reply may have some information on that; but 60,000 students is not a negligible section of people from outside our country. Moreover, they are a big body of people who are likely, when they go back to their own country, to rise to positions of great authority, and it is of enormous importance that their experience here shall really be of value and shall send them away with a friendly feeling towards this country.

I can understand the gratification of the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, when encountering abroad students who have returned from this country and who really have a feeling of friendliness and affection towards this country and its people. No doubt standing in a bus queue may have its disadvantages, but, at the same time, it does help one to get to know the people of the country among whom one is living. But, of course, all the more important is it that these students shall have nothing but pleasant memories, and we have all heard of cases where they have had the reverse of pleasant treatment. Unfortunately, there will always be occasional cases of the bad-mannered Englishman or Englishwoman because of whom the student will go away with a bad impression of Britain and the British people. But I believe that we are, as a country, waking up to the dangers of this problem.

We are also waking up to the need to do something about the students, and the British Council has the most elaborate and efficient organisation for dealing with them, from meeting them on arrival at the airfield or at Southampton or Liverpool to the finding and inspecting of lodgings and the keeping of registers of lodgings. An enormous office organisation is needed to keep track of the students and to meet their requirements. The British Council has set out to meet the needs of the students: first of all, their reception and help on first arrival. Those first few hours, or day or two, in a strange country can be the most alarming experience, and it is very much mitigated for the newly-arrived person when somebody is detailed to meet and take an interest in him.

There is then the question of introduction to British habits and customs; and this is a task in itself for which the British Council makes special provision. A newly-arrived foreign student, when possible, is given some days of deliberate instruction in the ways of the people of this country, in the coinage, in the system of public transport, the system of cafés and eating houses, the relationship between the sexes, and all that kind of thing. A knowledge of the day-today life of this country is of enormous importance when it is totally strange, as it is to somebody coming from the depths of Nigeria or Uganda who has never seen city life at all. That is the second of the functions which the British Council carries out for the students.

There is then the question of finding accommodation, and here, as I say. they have for years now had an organisation of inspectors of lodgings, through which a register is kept. I think that about 9,000 lodgings are now in the index and students are accommodated as nearly as possible with what they require in the neighbourhood they desire. Here, of course, one comes up against the racial question, because the Council's inspectors in going round and interviewing landladies obtain the most vivid view of the differing opinions in the country on race and colour. But it is thanks to these inspections through the Council's agencies that there have been very few, if any, unfortunate incidents of a coloured student being thrown off somebody's doorstep. This is a function of enormous value that is performed by the Council. That accommodation, with luck, if it is suitable, if the landlady and the student like each other, might be the student's home for two or three years while he is in this country, and it is easy to see the importance of getting a suitable place for the student.

I come next to the question of merging into the local community, and here I think a single student is at a disadvantage. One has often heard it said that a great city is a most lonely place; and, undoubtedly, for a foreigner from a remote part of the world, speaking imperfect English, life here can be extremely lonely and forbidding. So I think there is something to be said on those grounds for hostel life, for having students accommodated in hostels. There are also disadvantages. For the integration into the local community to be effective there is a need for a local voluntary committee. I believe that eighteen London boroughs have set up committees such as this which organise periodic entertainments, evenings and dances for all the students living in the borough. Where possible they organise hospitality for students in individual homes, and I am sure that through these agencies—local people who belong to various local clubs, local churches and institutions of that kind—students can really live the life of English people instead of living the life of a lonely stranger in the area.

In 1961, I believe it was, the Government allotted a sum of money for student accommodation. I think that in Whitehall circles it goes by the name of OSWEP, which is one of the horrible composite names, standing for Overseas Students Welfare Expansion Programme. A sum of £3 million was allotted, and it was intended to cover voluntary bodies, charitable bodies, to expand accommodation in homes, hostels, clubs and so on for overseas students. The British Council are acting as agents for the Government in administering that scheme; and it certainly is an incentive and an encouragement to voluntary bodies. It is controlled by rather strict rules, and the sum allotted, which is £500 per student accommodated, is, of course, nowhere near the cost of setting up a place for a resident student. I heard of a commercial firm not long ago who set up their own hostel for their own overseas students whom they bring to this country for training, and I am told that £2,000 a bed was the sum they spent on the scheme. So if the Government reckon that they should contribute half the cost of a new student place they will have to revise that figure of £500 and allow something more.

The scheme which I have described is, so far as I know, going slowly ahead—slowly because when money has to be raised by public subscription it necessarily takes time; and I believe that only a small proportion of the £3 million has so far been committed in schemes of that sort. I should like, being myself concerned in a small way with a student hostel, to thank the British Council for the help and advice they give, and to say that I am quite sure they are doing all they can with the resources which the Government provide to help in this situation. But do not let us forget that there are 60,000 men and women, from almost every country on the globe, studying any subject from accountancy, aeronautics, anæsthetics, right down to zoology—every subject one can think of. These people are important, and there is an urgent need to take trouble over them and see that when they get back home they take with them a favourable view of this country.

6.6 p.m.


My Lords, I should first of all like to apologise to the House in general and to my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard for missing the earlier part of his speech. I would assure the House that this was not due in any way to disrespect or lack of attention to the importance of this debate but merely to an unfortunate misunderstanding on my part about the time the debate was due to start. I should like to apologise. I would also in his absence congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Cowley, on his maiden speech, and say how much I admired it. Indeed, as I listened to him my admiration became increasingly tinged with envy. Much of what he said was very pertinent. There was one point on which I did not agree with him, when he said it is not what we say but how we say it. I would not quite agree with that. With regard to information, I would put it this way: it is not only what we say but also how we say it. I think that that, as a general principle for our information services, is a sound one. You must be quite certain not only the content is first-class but also the way it is put over and the way it is dressed up—not only the contents but the packaging: both must be admirable.

My noble friend the Minister of State, Foreign Office, outlined in his speech the general set-up of information services in this country and gave to the House an outline of the main fields of activity and the media used. He also made reference to our plans for the future, whereby there is to be a general expansion of all fields of information work. A number of speakers in this afternoon's debate have been critical of a "Stop-Go" policy in the information field and said how damaging this is to information work. With all respect, I think it is fair to say that in recent years we have not been pursuing a "Stop-Go" policy, but one of "Go" alone. After all, since 1958 information posts have been created in Nigeria, Cyprus, Sierre Leone, Tanganyika, Jamaica, Trinidad and Uganda. For the coming year, 1963–64, posts are planned for Sarawak and North Borneo, and in particular, in Nigeria, four posts: Lagos, Ibadan, Enugu and Kaduna.

Quite apart from the financial side, information services have been expanding geographically in recent years. My noble friend made some comment about information services in Canada, and I am happy to reassure him that since his visit information services there have been very considerably extended. Since 1954, at the time of the Drogheda Report, posts have been opened in Toronto, Montreal, Quebec, Vancouver, Edmonton and Winnipeg, and in addition the post at Ottawa has been very considerably extended. I hope the next time my noble friend visits Canada he will find satisfaction with the work and scope and size of our information services there.

I should like to elaborate a little on some of the aspects of our future plans in the information field. Very understandably, noble Lords made reference to the importance of television. This is clearly right, because this must be one of the great information media of the future. In this year's Information Estimates provision has been made for an increase in the supply of official British television material on overseas television stations. Furthermore, provision is made for some adaptation of material to give it special regional appeal, to the importance of which noble Lords have alluded. This regional appeal will be attained sometimes by using as commentators nationals of the country where the programme will appear, and by the use of dubbing in local languages.

The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, in his highly informative and most interesting speech, made reference, among other things, to the importance of television in the educational field. Here, I must warmly endorse what he said. Probably he is aware of this, but just in case he is not I draw his attention to the work done by the Centre for Educational Television set up last year by the Nuffield Foundation and financed by that Foundation, the B.B.C., I.T.V. and Her Majesty's Government. It is a joint financial effort. Their research work has now largely been concluded. They have been trying out package programmes. They have had two of their staff on an extensive tour of Africa, the Caribbean and Mexico. These officers have now returned and the organisation is just about to go into full production.

This is an exciting and new development in the field of educational television. Funds have also been found whereby the British Information Services are able to acquire B.B.C. and I.T.V. material suitable for showing overseas. They buy this from the B.B.C. and I.T.V. and then sell it at a highly subsidised rate to countries who otherwise could not afford it. As Lord Taylor said, there is not much money available in order to get this material to get the material to these stations financial assistance has to be provided. It is reassuring to know that the co-operation between the British Information Services, the B.B.C. and I.T.V. is close and extremely cordial.

I do not wish to weary the House with figures, but the increase in television and in the demand for television material is striking. I have been thinking about it during the course of the debate. I am not certain that I agree with Lord Taylor when he says that these emerging countries should not go in for it; that it is a status symbol—I am not sure whether he said that it is "keeping up with the Joneses". It is something for the future, and I think, on balance, that it is right that they should go in for it, although it is expensive. It costs a lots of money that could be spent in other ways, but it is asking too much for any newly-emerging country to turn its face away from one of the most exciting technical developments of this century. To give an example of this expansion, in 1957 46 countries had television; to-day 75 countries have it. Again, in 1957, leaving out of account Britain and the United States, there were estimated to be 14½ million television receivers in use. This figure is estimated to have risen to over 40 million to-day.

In my own field in the Commonwealth, television either exists or firm plans for its introduction exist in every independent Commonwealth country except one. These Commonwealth countries, as I know from first-hand knowledge, are eager to use British material, always provided that it is both informative and objective. The normal commercial channels supply a great deal of material, but as television spreads—because we are not yet at the end of the road in this field—the role of the official Information Services is bound to increase. Again to give an example, 21 copies of the Official British Weekly Television News are supplied to television stations in Australia alone; and as from April 1 the number to Australia alone is going to be increased to 30. This particular feature, the television news reel, goes out in all in eight different editions, and over 100 copies are distributed every week. It is one of the world's most widely seen television news programmes; and there is no doubt, always provided in general that more money were available, that there is almost unlimited scope for increasing television material for the Commonwealth and foreign countries.

I do not wish to get involved in any discussion or debate in regard to money. Reference has been made to the cost of a cruiser. As I say, I do not wish to get involved in discussion or debate in regard to matters of expenditure. I merely say that expenditure is increasing in this field and that everything has to be taken all in all in relation to the national Budget. We all know what spending more money means. It means increased taxation, the need to raise more money. Taken all in all, I do not think that the Information Services have been neglected. They are not the Cinderella of Government expenditure. But this recent increase was achieved largely through the most noble efforts of my right honourable friend the Secretary for Technical Co-operation. It was a great achievement on his part to get this extra money, and I think we may say that, taken all in all, the amount of money being spent is not unreasonable.


My Lords, has the noble Duke now finished with tele- vision? I wonder whether I might return to it for one moment. I have been thinking about what I said and what he said. Of course, in regard to television in the developing and emerging countries, I must say that I feel about the excitement of it as he does, and I quite understand how it happens. But when they spend a very large sum on setting up a television station for 200 people, without educational programmes and primarily as entertainment, and they have one doctor for 30,000 or 40,000 people, it seems to me that their sense of priorities has gone a little wrong. That was all I was trying to say. I understand quite well the appeal that it has, especially to somebody feeling the élan and excitement of building up a new community.


My Lords, I think there is little between our respective views. If I may say so, with respect to the noble Lord, when he gives the example that he gave I agree that it seems a rather curious form of priority.

If your Lordships will permit me, I should like to turn to another media—that of the written word. Quite rightly, a considerable amount has been said about it during to-day's debate. My noble friend in his speech made reference to our plans for increasing the teaching of English throughout the world. A number of noble Lords have referred to this, in particular my noble friends Lord Bridges and Lord Eccles. There was one particular point which my noble friend Lord Eccles made and which I think goes to the heart of this question of the teaching of English, because we are all agreed that it is of great importance. As the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, said, it is the key to higher education in virtually all the emerging countries of Africa and Asia. What interests me in what my noble friend Lord Eccles said was his reference to there being a fine career for anyone who wishes to specialise in this subject. Here we have the essence of the whole problem. We must try to see it established that the teaching of English as a second language—which, as my noble friend said, is quite different to teaching English to people who are brought up to speak it—becomes a career profession. In this connection, steps have been taken, by the creation of bursarships and studentships, for this to be done.

We are only at the beginning of this great problem. It will grow, and we must provide these teachers. If people can see that if they go in for being a teacher of English as a second language it will not be a job lasting just one or two years, but will go on and expand, and will have a future to it, then we shall get increasing numbers of them taking up this work. It is only by having enough people to teach the language that we shall solve the problem. The stage of direct teaching is over. We must make every effort to establish this as a genuine profession like other professions. Then, and only then, shall we get sufficient numbers of people attracted to this particular field of education.

To my mind, our greatest advantage in the struggle between the two rival ideologies which dominate the world scene to-day is the English language. There is no doubt that English is increasingly becoming the lingua franca of the emerging countries of Africa and Asia; and, as has been said, this is particularly so in the study of all forms of scientific and technical matter. I feel, therefore, that the Government have been very wise in their assistance in the distribution of books, nearly all of a technical nature, at reduced prices in Asian countries. With the co-operation of the publishers these books are put on sale at about one-third of the price of standard editions, to some of which the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard alluded. I should like to take this opportunity of paying a tribute to the very ready co-operation of the publishers in this matter. Without their assistance the scheme just would not be possible. Again, if I might talk of my own field, countries in the Commonwealth which are benefiting from this cheap book scheme include India, Pakistan, Ceylon and Malaya. I am happy to say that very active consideration is being given to the possibility of extending this system to West Africa.

There is one other aspect of the scheme which I know is welcomed by industrialists; that is, that textbooks on such matters as engineering often illustrate British equipment and machinery, and in due course this may lead to increased British exports to those countries in which the books are studied. Young engineers, learning from such textbooks, will see British equipment illustrated, and when the time comes for orders to be placed they will naturally turn to the country from which they have received their learning and whose plant and machinery they understand.

The noble Lord, Lord Bridges made reference to the fact that the British Council maintains libraries, which are extremely popular, in many countries overseas. Furthermore, the Council makes gifts of books to universities, colleges and other bodies, and has also assisted in the cheap book scheme by lending whole blocks of textbooks to students and colleges to enable them to pursue their studies and to get highly skilled technical information which would otherwise be beyond their means.

The cheap book scheme is only one aspect of the written word side of the information services. The British information services distribute an enormous amount of reading material about Britain. Nevertheless, I think we must face the fact that demand for such material is continually outstripping supply. To my mind, there is one particularly striking, successful Government magazine—and again I am talking of my own "parish"—entitled Commonwealth Today. There are copies in the Library, and I recommend those noble Lords who are interested in Commonwealth information work to look at it. Naturally I am a regular reader of it, and I quite honestly find that it maintains a consistently high standard of readability and presentation. It is an extremely good document, and I am sure noble Lords will find it worthwhile reading.

This particular publication is produced in English and in fourteen other languages. At the present moment there is a special edition for Nigeria, but we plan to have other special editions for Africa and for South-East Asian countries. At the moment it appears only eight times a year. I must confess that it is one of my dearest ambitions to turn it into a monthly magazine, which has obvious advantages as to regularity of production. Again the limiting factor is money, but I am not unhopeful that I shall remain in my office long enough to see the production of it as a monthly paper.


My Lords, before the noble Duke leaves that matter, I wonder whether he has seen an excellent publication from West Germany called Scala. Is the magazine to which he refers as good as Scala?


. I have seen Scala and it is first class. Commonwealth Today is a little different from from Scala. Scala is more of a prestige magazine. Our magazine deals more with facts and knowledge about the Commonwealth. I must say I admire Scala, and would like to know its financial background.


My Lords, I do hope it will not be so heavy-handed as Scala, which is quite the heaviest-handed publication I have read.


The girls in it are lovely.


Commonwealth To-day can exhibit quite a number of nice girls, too.


My Lords before the noble Duke finishes with books, would he allow me to ask him a question? I should like to apologise to the House because I was not able to be here earlier. With regard to paragraph 13 of the White Paper, he talks about books in countries where there are certain import restrictions, and the White Paper says other countries have got over this—I think this applies to America and France. Then the White Paper says: The Government are studying ways of encouraging the flow of British publications overseas. The noble Duke has told us what is happening in regard to university textbooks; he has also touched on the question of Government publications overseas. But I should like to know something about what the Government are doing to encourage sales overeas in countries where there are import restrictions on our works of literature. I feel sure the noble Duke would agree that it is through our literature that we can do a great deal to put over the British way of life and our ideas.


The best way I can answer the noble Lord's question is by saying that we are continually exploring this matter and find- ing out better methods of distribution. That is the key to the problem. To put it bluntly, at the moment there are not nearly enough textbooks in these emergent countries. Not to have somewhere where these books can be displayed and sold makes it difficult. We are very conscious of the fact that the more British literature than can be purveyed the better. It is very largely a matter of distribution, of finding ways of getting the books to the customers.

I should like to say a word or two about broadcasting. Tributes have been paid this afternoon, very rightly, to the B.B.C.'s external services. I should like to pay my own very humble, but nevertheless sincere, tribute. I think it is generally appreciated that the B.B.C.'s external services are one of the most important means of conveying information throughout the world, not only about life in this country, for the B.B.C. also distribute accurate news and they have a reputation, of which they have every reason to be proud, for the reliability and objectivity of their reports. As has been said, the Government are planning to spend during the next four years £4½million on building four relay stations, to increase the areas where the B.B.C. programmes may be heard, and, equally important, to strengthen the signal in existing fields so that it can be heard more easily. My noble friend made allusion to the station on Ascension Island, and another is also in process of being constructed in Cyprus. Sites for two others to cover the Far East are under consideration. When the programme is completed, the stations will cover Africa, Asia and South America.

This is, of course, a long-term programme. Nevertheless, it is one that I am sure is worth while; because, as the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, has said, television audiences are small and will remain small for a very considerable number of years to come, while the audience on sound radio is, and will continue to be, enormously larger than that for television. So I am sure that we are wise not to neglect the field of sound broadcasting.


Particularly medium-wave.


Particularly medium-wave, as my noble friend said. The Ascension Island station is to be a medium-wave station.

At the risk of boring the House I should like to talk a little about one aspect of information work with which I personally am closely associated, and reference to which has been made; that is, about visits to this country. The Foreign Office have their sponsored visitors and my Office have ours, and I am happy to say that as a result of the increased allowance in the information ceiling, it will be possible for very considerably more visitors to be entertained during the year 1963–64. I am a tremendous believer in these visits. My own acquaintance with the scheme is, of course, confined to Commonwealth visitors, but it is my good fortune to see all our visitors at the beginning of their stay, and we usually give a modest party for each party before they leave.

The way the system works is that our High Commissioners recommend suitable people in the countries to which they are accredited—broadcasters, trade unionists, social workers, even some politicians, and all sorts. They are duly invited and come, either singly or in parties of up to four; and they usually spend approximately a month in this country. The Central Office of Information is responsible for arranging these tours once they get here, although we provide the fares. Although it is true, and I must not be thought to be too smug, that the Central Office of Information is a Government Department, I should like to pay a very warm tribute to this particular field of their activities. They do it in an absolutely first-class way. They provide for each visitor or group of visitors an escort, or a series of escorts, to act (how shall I describe it?) as a guide, comforter and friend to these visitors, so that they are never on their own. The visits are an enormous success. I think I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, that the programmes are not overloaded. I see each of the programmes. Of course, we want the visitors to make the most of it, but they do have a considerable amount of recreational time, either to see Shakespeare or to go to Stamford Bridge to see Chelsea. But it is a good programme.


I mean an opportunity for them to walk about the streets, or even to do nothing. There comes a time when you do not even want to see Shakespeare or go to Stamford Bridge.


As a great doer of nothing myself, I think I can assure the noble Lord on that. If he would like I would gladly forward him one or two specimen programmes to see. There is not a set programme. Each programme is tailored—if I can make rather a bad pun—to meet the needs of the particular case. So that in addition to seeing London and something of the country, they can also see specialist work in their own particular field.

The British Council also run a number of sponsored visitor schemes, to which the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, made allusion. They are a slightly different type of visit, in that they are primarily concerned with specialised study services. I need not say, in making reference to the British Council, that they are also run in a wholly admirable way. Since the British Council, as has been pointed out, is not a Government Department, I should like to take this opportunity of paying a tribute to the work done by the Council. It does a magnificent job both in this country—and I am particularly aware of its work here concerning students, to which the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, made reference—and also overseas. Again, I can only speak with first-hand knowledge of the work it does in Commonwealth countries, but I am sure that what it does in foreign countries is of every bit as high a standard as that done in the emerging countries.

Last year I had the good fortune to visit a number of countries in Africa, and in every country I went to I was forcibly struck by the work of the Council; not least in the teaching of English to which reference has already been made. But invariably it is held in very high regard by the country in which it is represented, and its reading rooms are invariably a centre for the active-minded and intelligent. It is always a real experience, a real thrill, to go to a British centre, because so much is going on there. Quite apart from the libraries, such activities as drama and the arts are invariably well patronised and talked about in a very wide circle. I think the work of the Council supplements and dovetails into the work of the British Information Services in an admirable way, and certainly in the field of good Commonwealth relations I speak without hesitation in saying that in the British Council we have a true friend to which all of us in my Office are deeply grateful for the work it does.

Before I close I should like to say just a word about students. The noble Earl, Lord Lucan, asked if I could give him any information about whether the figures were expanding. At the moment there are in this country some 60,000 foreign students, of whom slightly over half are from Commonwealth countries. All the evidence is that those numbers are expanding and that next year there will be more, and more the year after that.

The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, had something to say about students in Russia which I was particularly interested to hear. I only wish that I had had his good fortune and had been able to visit Russia to see for myself. We feel (and I do not think we are being smug about this) that the best students do come to the West, not always to us but also to Germany and to the United States; and I understand—though I speak without knowledge and experience—that the Russians are prepared to take anybody. Very often they get into difficulties, because the people they take have not sufficient qualifications to benefit from the courses they attend. I also believe (I stand subject to correction) that, even in Russia, at Patrice Lumumba University there is a considerable degree of segregation for these students. Here, as the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, said, one of the happiest things is the complete integration of these overseas students—again I am talking about Commonwealth students—into whatever academy of learning they find themselves in.

A great deal is done by private citizens here to entertain the overseas students, and this is, of course, far the most valuable effort. I say that with no disrespect to the magnificent work done by the British Council, but, as the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, said, what these young men and young ladies want is to feel part of something. Therefore, being entertained and taken into people's homes, is the greatest thing they can have. We are fortunate in this country in having a large number of public-minded people who will, and do, entertain students at week- ends, and make them feel that they have somewhere where they can genuinely believe they belong.

I am sorry that the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, does not like the word OSWEP. In full, it stands for the Overseas Students' Welfare Expansion Programme. The noble Lord is well acquainted with its work. The plan is that over ten years £3 million will be available to produce 5,000 new student places, and an important aspect of the programme is that it is not exclusively for overseas students. There is to be a proportion unspecified—something like 10 or 15 per cent.—of British students, and I am sure that is right. Otherwise, there is the danger of segregation. So far, the number of new beds either provided or in the process of being provided is approaching the 2,000 mark. I noted with interest what the noble Earl had to say about the costs; and again, if I may say so, it seemed to me that he was extraordinarily well informed on this particular aspect of the financial side. As in all these things, one is up against rising costs all the time. Quite honestly, the programme is not going as fast as I should like, but substantial progress has been made.

My Lords, I am afraid that, not for the first time, I have talked for far too long, and I should like to end by thanking my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard for initiating this debate. It is about information, and I can say quite truthfully that as a result of this evening's debate I have learnt a great deal about it. I am therefore deeply grateful to him for bringing it to the attention of the House.

6.42 p.m.


My Lords, I think we have had a very interesting debate. Perhaps the attendance has been a little thin on the Benches on our side, but that really only goes to prove my point that a great many people do not understand the importance of the Overseas Information Services. I cannot agree with my noble friend Lord Eccles, who, as I understood him, though perhaps I am wrong, said that until our High Commissioner in Delhi had a private aeroplane we could not afford to spend any more money on the information services. In the Commonwealth this work is not costing us foreign currency; it is our own currency. I really think that if we do not put a step forward there the Americans will drive us out of the field. I should also like, just for a moment, to take up the question of thatched cottages with the noble Earl, Lord Lucan. As I understood him, he said it was a bad idea to advertise thatched cottages and old castles to tourists. But if you are going to advertise council housing estates you are not going to induce tourists to come to this country.


My Lords, I would strongly disagree with the noble Viscount on that. I think that modern buildings in all cities draw a lot of tourists. But my main point was that the thatched cottage is not typical because not many inhabitants of these islands live in thatched cottages in these days.


The most important tourists are, I suppose, the dollar tourists, and I really think the dollar tourists prefer thatched cottages. However, I should like to thank all those noble Lords who have spoken in this debate, and especially the two Ministers who have spoken on behalf of Her Majesty's Government. I should also like to congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Cowley, on his maiden speech. I hope we shall have many more speeches from him. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.