12 DECEMBER 1931, Page 3

Voices Across the Sea Tennyson's vision of " the Parliament

of man, the Federation of the world," where " the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe," seemed to be brought appreciably nearer last Saturday night, when the young men of Oxford and Harvard debated by wireless, with the Atlantic intervening. The subject was that on which all sober men arc pondering—the advisability of cancelling all War debts and reparations— and the respective views of the average Englishman and the average American were frankly expressed. A debate of this kind must necessarily be in the nature of a tour de force. The cost of transatlantic telephony forbids many such experiments, and words arc too expensive in terms of dollars and sterling to be wasted in impromptus. More preparation than is desirable for the best kind of debate is therefore necessary. But that is a fault shared by the discussions staged by the B.B.C. for listeners in this country. The value of hearing both sides in the same half-hour is considerable, but a hammer- and-tongs argument between two first-class debaters with no comparing of notes beforehand would be worth a great deal more. Unfortunately the B.B.C. wants to know what they mean to say.

* *