§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL
rose to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House in order to call attention to an urgent matter of definite public importance—namely, the absence from the United Kingdom of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs—[Ministerial cries of "Oh, oh!"]—and his consequent inability to have personal communication with his colleagues in the Cabinet and to communicate intelligence to Parliament personally in the critical condition of the Eastern question, and as to the relations of this country with the foreign Powers.
The pleasure of the House not having been signified, Mr. Speaker called on those Members who supported the Motion to rise in their places, and not less than 40 Members having accordingly risen,
§ MR. MACNEILL
said he considered that the justification of his Motion had been amply vindicated by the tone and manner of the questions and the replies to those questions given this afternoon, both by the First Lord of the Treasury and the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. He hoped those Gentlemen, who were his opponents, would acquit him of anything like personal discourtesy—[loud Ministerial cries of "No!"]—to the head of the Government, but the issues here were issues of life and death, of peace and war. In the Act of Settlement under which Her Majesty sits on the Throne there was a provision giving to Parliament absolute control over the movements of the Sovereign in order to keep the Sovereign in the country. First of all, he submitted that his absence from the United Kingdom was in itself a disability for the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary to have that personal communication with his colleagues which was all important in the present critical condition of affairs in the east of Europe, and the inconvenience and danger arising from Lord Salisbury's absence were much enhanced by the union in his person of the two great offices of State of Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary. In the constitutional history of the country the Prime Minister was supposed to exercise a control over the Foreign Secretary. The union of the two offices in Lord Salisbury, and his absence abroad, left 302 him with no outside influence to control his policy. When Lord Palmerston, in 1853, was dismissed from the office of Foreign Secretary it was because he did not obey the orders of the Prime Minister. Lord Salisbury's absence, he asserted, marked a development of one-man irresponsible power in the Cabinet. [Ministerial cries of "Oh!"] Never before had the two offices been united in one individual. Yet the Foreign Secretary had a power which was vested in no other Minister. The most petty gas or water Bill could be discussed line by line, and could not become law without an Act of Parliament, but what was the power of the Foreign Secretary? Treaties could be entered into, peace could be made, war declared, the most tremendous issue could be decided without the House of Commons having the slightest control over them in their initiation. This country could, so far as Parliament was concerned, be placed at the very tail of Germany, or made subservient to Turkey. It might be said that the Under Secretary was here to give full information. In the strongest manner consistently with Parliamentary courtesy he traversed that statement. Full information was not given by the right hon. Gentleman. He could not really be the personal agent or mouthpiece of the Secretary of State when the latter was out of the kingdom. There ought to be in the House of Commons a statesman constitutionally responsible—
§ MR. MACNEILL
denied that the, Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs was a Minister of the Crown. The right hon. Gentleman was no more responsible for, any of the questions that he answered than the humblest Member of the House; and it was imperative, having regard to the state of Europe, to the condition of affairs in Crete, that there should be some Minister present on whom they; could fix responsibility. He thought that the tone of the answers given showed clearly the absence of that responsibility and a desire not, to give the House information. There should, in short, be someone responsible to the true Parliament of the country for the management of foreign affairs.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That this House do now adjourn," put and negatived, amid derisive Ministerial laughter.