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The question I wish to raise keeps us in the ethereal atmosphere of our previous discussion but shifts the location from Scotland to Russia. I wish to draw the attention of the House to the continued jamming of B.B.C. broadcasts by the Soviet. The British public appear not to know, or else to have forgotten, that for three months now a radio war has been going on between the East and the West. If there has been something of a rapprochement in international relations between the Western Allies and Russia, recently, that is not evident in the ether. The cold war has, indeed, been "hotted up" in the air, and for 90 minutes every day war is declared by Russia on the air. This radio jamming during the war was taken for granted, for it was one of the weapons of war, but its introduction in peace time between nations alleged to be in friendly relations should not be allowed to pass without comment in this House and without notice by our Government.
What are the facts? The first is that the B.B.C. Overseas Service broadcasts three half-hour programmes a day to Russia in Russian, at 6.15 a.m., 5.15 in the afternoon, and at a quarter past midnight, all Moscow times. These programmes consist of news, comments, factual talks about world events, "Britain Today," surveys of the British Press, and so on. All points of view on current opinion are covered. This programme began in 1946, when the B.B.C. took the decision to retain and expand the European service. The next fact is that on 25th April last the B.B.C. found its Russian broadcasts being jammed, entirely without warning. Clearly that was no sudden decision. Clearly it was not connected with the negotiations then going on for the ending of the Berlin blockade, and clearly it was not connected with the suggestion put forward in many quarters that the Russians did not desire their people to know the reasons for their failure in the Berlin blockade. There is plenty of evidence, technical and otherwise, to show that for many months before some 300 jamming transmitters were being prepared to fight this war against the B.B.C. These transmitters could not have been set up overnight. It certainly was not a sudden decision—clearly preparations must have been going on for many months before.
The next fact is that the U.S.S.R. are also jamming the American broadcasts being beamed to Russia under the title of "Voice of America." The Yugoslays are also claiming that their broadcasts are being jammed. Those are the facts of the situation, and we in this House are bound to ask why this jamming is taking place. I believe that the first and most obvious reason is that the B.B.C. have been too successful with their broadcasts to Russia. They have been penetrating the Iron Curtain, and the Russian workers have been hearing something of the truth first hand from the West.
We know that there are some 5½ million radio sets in the U.S.S.R., which is the official figure given out a year or so ago by the Russians. We also know that under their present five-year plan they are about to add another three million sets—most of these sets are short wave. That means that in Russia proper, Russian-speaking U.S.S.R., there is one set per 13 of the population, and in the Ukraine, which is the next best radio-using State, it is one set in 78 of the population. These figures compare with our own of 1 in 3. The owners of these sets have been committing the grave sin in Russian eyes of listening to the B.B.C. Indeed, Russian people even wrote to the B.B.C. up to 1948, mainly in regard to the English by Radio programmes, but in 1948 the censor presumably stepped in and the letters fell in number; this year there have been none at all. The Russians know it is no use trying to ban listening to the B.B.C. programmes by legislation. Hitler tried to do it and was never successful; it only made the B.B.C. programmes more popular. They knew that jamming was the most effective weapon they had.
I believe that this is a major battle in the war of ideas. The last thing Russia wants is accurate news to penetrate to her people. They might even find out the truth about what is happening in Russia. According to the Kremlin, they must only be fed on the right radio diet in keeping with the Iron Curtain policy. They must be cut off from the West. There must be frontiers of the mind as well as of the body. Freedom of information in Russia means only freedom for the Russian view. Every story in the newspapers or on the radio must conform to the approved line of the greatness of Soviet Russia and the decadence of the capitalist and imperialist West. Only the other day I noticed in one of their reports that they considered our latest autumn fashions as being evidence of our decadence at the present time. They say that they are reeking of bourgeois democracy—I do not know whether they are talking about "plunging necklines" or hobble skirts.
I have come to the House prepared to give some of the distortions of truth put out by Radio Moscow to their own people. Three days ago the Moscow Home Service programme put out the following talk about London, in a programme series called "From the Map of the World," the author of which is given as Boris Izakov. Some of the descriptions given in this talk on London make most interesting reading and must have been very interesting listening for the Russian radio listeners.
London is the abode of the Imperialistic octopus which draws the juices from the 500 million strong population of the British Empire and many semi-colonial countries. But at the present time the British Empire is shaken to its very foundations and the irradicable imprint of decadence has descended on its capital.
Then comes a description of Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square and Trafalgar Square:
There are no neon advertisements. It is forbidden to light up shop windows. After nightfall the entire city is soon immersed in semi-darkness. By nine o'clock pedestrians become scarce. The owner of a roll of dollars feels he is the boss in London. All doors are open to him. Only for him are exceptions in the rationing of goods made. Notices to the effect, 'Ration cards not required for payment in dollars,' can be constantly seen in the windows of fashionable shops in Regent Street and Bond Street. Such is one of the consequences of the notorious Marshall Plan.
The hon. Member might very well join the Communist radio in view of the amount of distortions he is able to put across weekly in his "Recorder" article.
The Izakov talk goes on to discuss housing:
At the expense of money pumped from the pockets of the workers, the rich landlords and municipal authorities are zealously engaged in perfecting the comforts of the bourgois residential quarters. Buildings destroyed during the air-raids are not being reconstructed. Scaffoldings are nearly completely absent from the streets of the capital. After touring the entire city one can count the houses in the process of building on the fingers of one hand.
The Soviet may well have been listening to the Conservative Party. The distortions must be perfectly evident to the House when they say,
In the suburbs homeless people shelter in huts knocked together from boards and tin plates.
This probably is the pièce de résistance.
My hon. Friend will recall that the Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling) announced in New York prior to the nationalisation of British Railways, that they had already started to lose money because of the threat of nationalisation. Would my hon. Friend on those terms advocate the banning of short-wave broadcasts from the United States to this country, because we do not want to hear such distorted statements.
If my hon. Friend stays here long enough he will find out my attitude to jamming. The B.B.C. have invited Mr. Boris Izakov to come to London. They will give him the freedom of the microphone, allowing him to make as many running commentaries as he likes. However, not only would Mr. Izakov's broadcasts be jammed but he himself would no doubt be jammed, if he told the truth. Radio Moscow said this about the dock strike on 21st July:
The Labour Government has resorted to open terror. The troops they have sent to the docks are not only to unload the ships but to intimidate the strikers.
This distortion is nothing new. It has been going on for some time, and they
might have been listening to the Conservative Party when in January, 1948—this is appropriate in the light of events in this House last week—they put this out:
Regarding the citadel of the British bourgeoisie, the iron and steel industry, since the outcry of American monopolists the Labourites no longer even mention it.
I will not weary the House with any more equally obvious misrepresentation, such as the description of London given by the Moscow "New Times" of 3rd September, 1947:
At this stage one should ask whether similar misrepresentations are put out by the B.B.C. in order to justify this radio war. If one listened to Radio Moscow on this subject one would imagine that the B.B.C. was guilty of gross misrepresentation, for on 24th July last Moscow Radio said,
The fewer lies the B.B.C. disseminates, the cleaner will the ether be.
B.B.C. scripts are available. Any hon. Member of this House is free to examine them. I have done so, and I find that over a long period they have contained factual news and fair comment. Over a period it is right to say that there is no bias in these broadcasts, the opinions and comments given are a fair reflection of our British way of life. In fact, we would have no difficulty in recognising our Britain from the broadcasts put out by the B.B.C. I would add that if mistakes of fact are made they are subsequently corrected in later broadcasts.
It is quite true that in the last year, since the cold war was intensified, B.B.C. programmes tended to contain more political material and less cultural material. Today the B.B.C., in the face of long-continuing provocation, now "talk back," but this cut and thrust in debate, even on the air, is, in my view, a healthy thing. The American broadcasts are in a slightly different category. They are more deliberately propagandist, less balanced and probably less objective. They are talking back to Russia in her own language of political Billingsgate. I personally believe that we must avoid mere abuse, because in the end the objective voice of the B.B.C. will prevail, as it did in the war.
I should like to quote one amusing sidelight which, arose from this jamming. It would appear that the Russian jammers are now jamming their lord and master, Stalin, or at any rate some of the words he used on famous occasions during the war. In recent weeks the propaganda line of Radio Moscow has been that the Russians won the war unaided, that the battle of Britain was a myth and that what happened on D-Day was grossly exaggerated. The B.B.C., quite rightly, in order to combat that, broadcast as an answer Stalin's own comments on various incidents during the war. For example, they gave his comment on our D-Day landings on the shores of Normandy, which he described as one of the greatest military achievements of history. That has been jammed, and it is likely that someone in Russia will now be purged for jamming Stalin.
What action does His Majesty's Government propose to take to end the radio war? That is a question to which we should like to have a considered answer, because in our opinion this radio airlift to Moscow is as important to us as was the Berlin airlift. I would ask my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if any representations are to be made through the usual diplomatic channels. Last Wednesday I put a question to the Minister of State, and his answer indicated that that was not to be so. I should like to hear that we have reconsidered that, and are about to make representations through the Soviet Embassy here in London. Secondly, I should like to know if this jamming is, in fact, a violation of the Geneva Convention on Freedom of Information, which I know did not reach very satisfactory conclusions? However, is thïs a violation of the agreements which were reached there?
Thirdly, I should like to know—and this is probably the most important question I shall put—whether it is proposed to raise this question at the next Assembly of the United Nations. Clearly this is a problem which concerns other nations besides ourselves, the United States in particular and is, therefore, a United Nations matter. I would ask my hon. Friend to state categorically that we ourselves will not consider counter-jamming. Though that is the sort of action which, no doubt, the Russians understand, I hope that we shall not resort to it. We should tell the Russians that no one in this country listens to their broadcasts here and jamming would be a waste of time.
I am convinced that if the ordinary people of the world know and understand each other we shall have peace. There is no better way for nation to speak peace unto nation than by radio. Russia, who so frequently condemns the West for warmongering, is the greatest warmonger in the ether. This radio war should cease. My right hon. Friends should do everything in their power to bring it to an end. So long as it lasts, peace is unreal and international understanding a mockery. Let Russia for once follow the advice of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary when he said,
Let us open up our countries for inspection; let us open up the world; let light and knowledge come in.
We ourselves would add:
Let Russia not fear the B.B.C. It was the voice of truth to millions during the war. It can bring truth and friendship to Russia now.
We have had a most interesting speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. Haire). If I may, I should like to begin by answering the specific questions which he has just put to me. First, he asked whether this jamming was a violation of the Freedom of Information Conventions. The answer is that the Conventions are not yet complete, and have not yet been ratified. If the Conventions—there are three of them—had been completed and ratified in their present form, then this jamming would be a violation of them. I cannot assure the House that the Soviet Government intend to ratify the Conventions when completed, but jamming certainly violates them in their present form.
This question will be discussed at the next meeting of the United Nations Assembly, and though I cannot undertake to raise this as a matter of substance or to move any amendment, I am sure that the British delegates will comment on this jamming as a violation of the Conventions in their draft form, and that they will consider seriously whether the Conventions require altering or strengthening in the light of this jamming.
On the question of retaliation, the plain answer is that His Majesty's Government will not resort to any retaliation in this matter. It is not our practice, and will not be, to jam foreign broadcasts and, in particular, Moscow Radio. We have freedom of truth in Britain and I think there should be freedom of falsehood as well.
May I remind the Minister that in Berlin the Russian Control Commission have a station in the British sector of Berlin which was granted to them at the time of the Potsdam Agreement and that it is being used by them for the broadcast of very tendentious news, which is a breach of the spirit of the Potsdam Agreement?
May I come back to the facts of the existing jamming of the B.B.C. Overseas Services? This jamming began sporadically at the end of 1947, not only of our B.B.C. Russian broadcasts but also from time to time of others as well. One evening it would be jamming of the Norwegian broadcast and on another of the Hungarian broadcast of the B.B.C. In retrospect, those examples of jamming were clearly ranging shots, experiments in the technique of jamming. The very large-scale jamming programme from which we now suffer began on 25th April, 1949. All the Russian broadcasts of the B.B.C. and of the "Voice of America" were immediately and completely obliterated. Very strong and prompt counter-measures were taken by the B.B.C. and by the "Voice of America." A fortnight later there were two extra programmes which had been put on daily and simultaneously for the B.B.C. and the "Voice of America" on a large number of shortwave transmitters. The jammers were also directed against these programmes and so the broadcasts were re-arranged. They now take place three times daily, for 30 minutes at a time, upon 23 to 28 transmitters.
The technique of jamming is painstaking and thorough. It is clearly a technique similar to that which was used by the Germans during the war. At first a large number of high-power and high-quality transmitters were used, but the tendency is now to replace those with low-quality transmitters. No doubt the high-quality transmitters are being returned to their proper use for home broadcasting. The House will want to know the effectiveness of this jamming and what the prospects are for the future of the truth about Britain being brought to the Soviet people by the B.B.C. broadcasts.
Undoubtedly, listening has been greatly hampered. The number of listeners, which was formerly quite substantial, has been severely cut down. As my hon. Friend has said, the Soviet Union has an unusually high density of short-wave receivers because of the huge distances of the Soviet Union, which fact makes it necessary for the home broadcasts to be on short waves. Nevertheless we feel that it is fairly certain that a Russian listener who is determined to hear these programmes and who has a short-wave set can hear them. The B.B.C. will do their best to counter any further jamming, but it is difficult to see how they can do it without affecting other foreign broadcasts. It is clearly easier and cheaper for the Russians to put up jamming stations than for us to find new means of defeating them.
My hon. Friend has given a number of quotations from Moscow Radio, but I am bound to say that he did not choose them altogether felicitously, for they were neither libellous nor slanderous. As a student of propaganda I must say that I have heard worse than that. Perhaps if the House is patient with me, I might read out one or two of my own. I have a selection which I think illustrates much
better than those read out by my hon. Friend, the kind of broadcast which takes place. First, I would quote this broadcast by Moscow Radio of an article which appeared in "Pravda" on 13th July by the well-known commentator M. Zaslavsky. He commented upon a speech by the Prime Minister in which Fascist and Communist disturbances in London were mentioned. He said:
In Britain, the Fascist cut-throats, hooligans and bandits, the adherents of Hitler, organised a demonstration against democracy. … They were well guarded by the police, but the honest workers who came out into the streets to protest against the instigators of a new war and the revival of Fascism were beaten up, thrown into police torture chambers, tried and imprisoned. Such all-powerful, arbitrary police action is impossible and unthinkable in a true democratic State. The workers were making preparations for the peaceful celebration of international May Day, but the Government said 'No' and the police transformed the town"—
that is, London—
into an armed camp. Armoured cars assembled in front of the workers' districts. Lines of police waited in full military preparedness. Mothers hid their children so that they should not fall before the merciless bullets of the police of the enemies.
If the House is interested, perhaps I could give another example by quoting from the Soviet periodical "Teachers' Gazette," for 23rd February last. It said:
The Soviet Army was forced to fight single-handed against the Hitlerite hordes for three years. Great Britain and America entered the war when, as a result of annihilating blows of the Soviet armed forces, victory over Hitlerite Germany was a foregone conclusion.
I have not got that quotation with me, but I recollect it. Just before I got up to speak I was handed a quotation from this morning's Moscow Radio which referred to the codex of forced labour which was made public by the British delegation on the E.C.E. On this subject, Moscow Radio this morning said:
The codex illustrates the humane aims and character of the Soviet corrective labour policy, a policy which has nothing in common with the bourgeois prison system, the aim of which is the moral and physical crippling and annihilation of the inmates … in bourgeois
prisons … prisoners who do not fulfil their output quota are cruelly tortured.
I am perfectly sure that no one who understood the code and had any regard for democracy would give it any favourable review at all. Perhaps I may just give one further quotation, this time from M. V. V. Kuznetsov, President of the All-Union T.U.C. who, speaking at the 10th Congress, as reported in "Trud" of 20th April, said:
If a worker"—
in a capitalist country—
perishes as a result of an accident at his work or is crippled the employer simply takes on another worker out of the numbers of unemployed. As regards medical aid in works and factories over there, there is no point in mentioning the subject. It doesn't exist. The life and health of the working man is not worth a farthing in capitalist countries.
This shows the need, if we can possibly do it, to tell the truth about Britain to the Soviet people. What ideas must they have of workers' conditions in Britain and of who are the true leaders of working-class opinion? These things must be unknown to them. What we do know is that there is intense curiosity among the Russian people on the subject of conditions in Britain. We know that from those who go there. It is a pity that so many who travel to the Soviet Union do not fairly satisfy the curiosity of the Soviet people in this regard. We want to do our utmost to get the truth across if we possibly can.
The extracts which the hon. Gentleman has read out are wildly exaggerated and this country is much in need of cheerful literature. Could they not be published on some occasion in our newspapers? They are so wildly exaggerated that they would appeal to the humour of the British people?
If the hon. Gentleman can point out any quotation from the B.B.C. which is as distorted and exaggerated as the passages I have read out, I shall be interested to see it. It is clear that the general policy of the Soviet authorities is to prevent any information from reaching the Soviet people except that which is collected and issued by the Soviet authorities themselves. There is something in what was said by my hon. Friend when he suggested that the B.B.C. broadcasts had been too successful in getting the truth to the Russian people.
However, it is not only radio jamming. The Soviet authorities use every means of censoring news about Britain which may reach the Russian people. There is a tight control on home radio and newspapers. The restrictions on foreign travellers to the Soviet Union are very tight, and they are even tighter on travellers from the Soviet Union to other countries, including Britain. The circulation of foreign newspapers is forbidden or tightly restricted. Only one British newspaper is on public sale in Russia, and then only in restricted parts of the Soviet Union, and that is the "British Ally." Newspapers like the "Daily Herald," "The Times," and the "Manchester Guardian," and even the "Daily Worker" can only be studied in libraries with permission.
It is an interesting point that in Britain the "Daily Worker" can be bought and read openly by the man in the street, but in Russia the Soviet citizen must visit a library, give his name and address and produce a reason for wanting to read the paper before he is allowed to read the "Daily Worker" and other foreign newspapers. As a faithful reader of the "Daily Worker," I can assure the Soviet authorities that nothing in that paper need give them any anxiety whatever. Any deviation in the "Daily Worker" from the official propaganda line of Moscow radio is purely accidental. I would urge the Soviet authorities to give the Soviet citizen the same right to read the "Daily Worker" as the British citizen enjoys.
It remains to be seen how widespread is the readership of "Forward" even in the Lenin Institute. If the hon. Gentleman will let me know, I shall be glad to consider any information about it. I maintain that it is clear that the Soviet Government know well that if the Russian workers could compare their lot with that of the British workers, their faith in their rulers would be very badly shaken, and that is why they prevent the truth about Britain being known to the Soviet people. That is why our invitations for exchange visits are constantly declined, or have been declined. That is why our efforts to break down the barriers between the two peoples are frustrated. That is why Russian citizens may not listen to the B.B.C. and may not take their holidays in Britain, may read only selected British books and see only selected British films, and may not write letters freely to us.
The plain truth is that the rulers of Russia cannot trust their people with the truth. I say that it is a terrible crime to deny to a whole people access to the truth. It violates every principle of civilised government. It defies every lesson of history. In Russia it deliberately fosters ignorance, misunderstanding and prejudice. It is a great obstacle to international friendship and peace. His Majesty's Government feel that they have a duty to make the truth about Britain known, especially in countries where falsehoods about it are deliberately circulated. They feel that this attitude will in the long run contribute to friendship and understanding between the British and the Russian peoples. I cannot assure the House that the B.B.C. will successfully reach the Soviet listening public if the Soviet Government are determined, regardless of cost, to prevent it, but I do assure the House that, as far as His Majesty's Government are concerned, no effort will be spared to see that the truth about Britain is as widely known as possible.
An assurance on one point would be valuable. People have made the suggestion that it would be desirable to make these broadcasts as innocuous as possible so that there would be greater hope that they would not be jammed. The only consequence of that would be to destroy the interest of these broadcasts for the people in Russia who are willing to take the trouble and risk to hear them. It would be a great public service if the hon. Gentleman would give an assurance that the influence of His Majesty's Government will in no way be brought to bear in that respect on the contents of the scripts. I do not ask that merely because my own broadcasts have been jammed, but in the interest of all broadcasts.
I can certainly give the answer that as far as the Government are concerned, and not the B.B.C., the truth will be told, and told in a bold, direct and challenging way. It is not merely a question of the broadcasts not being sufficiently interesting to those who have the courage to listen to them. It is also a question of giving a true representation, and of not allowing one's representation to be a false one simply because that is the only way of getting anything across.
Is it possible to have a copy of the scripts which my hon. Friend has mentioned placed in the Library so that hon. Members may know what is actually being given? Would it also be possible to let hon. Members have a script of the broadcast "The Voice of America"? I understand that the jamming started after "The Voice of America" got going. Also, is there any interference with the normal English broadcasts of the B.B.C.? There are numbers of people in the Soviet Union who understand English and who listened to the ordinary English B.B.C. broadcasts when I was there.
On the first point, I believe that the scripts are already in the Library, and if they are not, I will certainly consider my hon. Friend's suggestion. As to the second point, I should not without notice like to commit myself about placing "The Voice of America" script in the Library, because I am not sure of the responsibility of His Majesty's Government in this regard and other factors, but I will consider it. On the third point, I have no knowledge of any jamming of the English language broadcasts