Beveridg e Report (Bureau of Current Affairs)

Oral Answers to Questions — British Army – in the House of Commons on 19th January 1943.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr John Dugdale Mr John Dugdale , West Bromwich

asked the Secretary of State for War whether an adequate summary of the Beveridge Report has been published by the Army Bureau of Current Affairs; and whether officers are being given every encouragement to initiate discussions on the Report in their units?

Photo of Mr Francis Bowles Mr Francis Bowles , Nuneaton

asked the Secretary of State for War (1) the reasons for the withdrawal of a recent issue of "Current Affairs" containing a summary by Sir William Beveridge of his recent Report on Social Insurance and Allied Services;

(2) whether his attention has been called to a broadcast on 22nd December, 1942, by Mr. R. G. Casey, Minister of State, in the course of which he said that the Beveridge Report had aroused the greatest interest among the troops in the Middle East; and whether he proposes to make available to them the full Report or the report in brief and, if so, when?

Photo of Sir James Grigg Sir James Grigg , Cardiff East

There has been a great deal of misunderstanding on this subject. In the first place, there has been no ban on discussion of the Beveridge Report in the Army. Any soldier can read the Report or the abridged form of it as much as he likes, and the Command Education Authorities are being encouraged to provide lectures on the subject by qualified lecturers, both military and civilian, under the ordinary Army Education Scheme. A. B.C.A. discussions are on a quite different footing. The basis of these is a weekly compulsory parade at which regimental officers are required to initiate a debate on a prescribed subject aided by a brief provided for them but not for the soldiers. The briefs are contained in alternative weeks in the two A.B.C.A. publications "War" and "Current Affairs." To me it seems obvious that it is absolutely vital that these briefs should not only be completely objective but should in addition be generally accepted as being so.

When then I was shown an issue of "Current Affairs," containing, besides an official brief, a summary of the Beveridge Report written by the author himself, I took the view that compulsory discussion of this subject in the Army ought to be postponed until there had been at any rate a preliminary Debate in this House on the subject. For one thing it might easily have conveyed the impression that the scheme set out in the Report was settled Government policy whereas in fact no decision of any kind has been taken. Unfortunately, the matter was, for various reasons into which I need not enter, brought to me at a very late stage and the copies had already left the printer for distribution. It was, therefore, necessary to give orders for their withdrawal. The choice presented to me was a difficult one, but I have no doubt that I took the better of the two courses open to me. The factor which principally weighed with me was the absolute necessity of keeping A.B.C.A. out of possible political controversy, particularly in view of the fact that attendance at these debates is compulsory.

Photo of Mr John Dugdale Mr John Dugdale , West Bromwich

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his decision has caused grave dissatisfaction, and that controversial matters have frequently been discussed at these discussions, even including the U.S.S.R.? Does he intend in future to put a ban on controversial discussion?

Photo of Sir James Grigg Sir James Grigg , Cardiff East

The hon. Member must read into my answer no more than is contained in it. Discussion is reasonably free, provided that it can take place in the light of all the facts and on a brief which is objective, and with no suspicion of partiality.

Photo of Mr Francis Bowles Mr Francis Bowles , Nuneaton

Why does the right hon. Gentleman assume that members of the civilian Army are less intelligent than a great number of other people and are likely to assume that the Beveridge Report is settled Government policy, when that is not considered by anyone else to be a likely conclusion to come to?

Photo of Sir James Grigg Sir James Grigg , Cardiff East

I do not assume that members of the Army are less intelligent than the civilian population or anyone else. They are an extremely intelligent class.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

Would not the summary prepared by Sir William Beveridge be regarded as purely objective? Moreover, why does the right hon. Gentleman set himself up as an arbiter on matters of alleged controversy which are to come before men in the Forces?

Photo of Sir James Grigg Sir James Grigg , Cardiff East

I do not set myself up as an arbiter in the least. As one of the original parents of the A.B.C.A. scheme, I am extremely sensitive of any possibility of its being involved in controversy so that it becomes a failure. In the present instance, controversy has left it and has centred itself upon me, and I am content that it should be so.

Photo of Mr Maurice Petherick Mr Maurice Petherick , Penryn and Falmouth

Is it not highly undesirable and improper that lectures of a political nature should be delivered to the Forces, and is it not virtually impossible to lecture on such matters as tariffs, post-war reconstruction and the Beveridge scheme without betraying political views unless the lecturer is vapid or uninteresting?

Photo of Sir James Grigg Sir James Grigg , Cardiff East

The knife edge is certainly an extremely narrow one.

Photo of Mr John Dugdale Mr John Dugdale , West Bromwich

Owing to the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I will raise the matter on another occasion.

Photo of Mr Tom Driberg Mr Tom Driberg , Maldon

asked the Secretary of State for War how many copies of the bulletin concerning the Beveridge Report, issued by the Army Bureau of Current Affairs, were not returned after its withdrawal?

Photo of Sir James Grigg Sir James Grigg , Cardiff East

Copies are still being sent in, and the returns are not yet complete.

Photo of Mr Tom Driberg Mr Tom Driberg , Maldon

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider making this bulletin available to Members of the House, out of the ample stocks now presumably in hand, so that they can judge for themselves how completely objective and harmless it is?

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

But why? May we understand why my right hon. Friend declines to put hon. Members in possession of the facts? Are we not entitled to know all the facts objectively and will he not reconsider his decision?

Photo of Sir James Grigg Sir James Grigg , Cardiff East

I will certainly give the matter further consideration, but I think it would be much better to wait and see what final edition might be sent out in the light of the situation after the Debate in this House.

Photo of Sir William Brass Sir William Brass , Clitheroe

In view of the laudatory foreword which is written to this leaflet, will my right hon. Friend have the whole thing published to the House of Commons? We want copies so that we can see what is written as a foreword to the Beveridge Report for the Army.

Photo of Mr Tom Driberg Mr Tom Driberg , Maldon

It is not laudatory; it is impartial.

Photo of Sir James Grigg Sir James Grigg , Cardiff East

I have said that I will reconsider the matter.

Photo of Sir Kenneth Pickthorn Sir Kenneth Pickthorn , Cambridge University

In doing that will my right hon. Friend consider using his influence with other Ministers, particularly the Minister of Information, so as to enable the House to know what other Ministries have done to expound and commend this Report to the British and foreign publics?