§ Mr. LYNCH
I propose now to raise the question of Greece, because the situation there is very grave. Although this War may continue for a very considerable time, yet it is quite possible that within the next few weeks, possibly within the next few days, important events may take place which will throw their influence over the whole course of the subsequent campaign, and afterwards may be seen to be among the decisive factors in its result. In the handling of this question many blunders have been made. The greater part of the responsibility for those blunders rests with His Majesty's Government. I regard this question as so serious that in rising now I put on, so to speak, the whole armour of democracy, and I intend to speak not only to this House but to the public at large with frankness and boldness.
The question of Greece also involves, both directly and indirectly, that of the whole Balkan campaign. The question may be asked at this stage: Why is Greece not now ranged with the Allies, fighting cordially in the direction in which her own interests point? Greece had the example of Serbia before her eyes to give her pause. Following upon that arose the question of Roumania, which remained in suspense for many months. On a former occasion I depicted to this House the enormous efforts that were being made by Germany to bring in Roumania on that side. Happily those efforts have been frustrated. That may be claimed as a victory for the diplomacy of this country, but those who have any knowledge whatever of the inside of these matters will know that no credit for that is due to this country; if one can apportion the praise, I think it would be in a very great part due to the statesmanship of the French Prime 896 Minister. He has handled this whole question not only with address but with boldness.
When Roumania entered the lists an oportunity arose, such an opportunity as had been presented in numbers to the Allies, pointing out the way to victory. That opportunity was neglected. One would have imagined that while Roumania was preparing, and after the period when it became certain that Roumania must finally enter on the side of the Allies, adequate preparations would have been made in Salonica, in full co-operation with the Roumanians and in complete co-ordination with the whole great plan of strategy of the Allies, and that the moment that Roumania entered the lists the greatest energy would have been shown in carrying out these plans so prepared, and there would have been a rapid march on both sides to the capital of the Bulgarians, that Bulgaria would have been wiped off the slate, that the connection between Constantinople and Germany would have been broken, that Turkey would have been isolated, soon to be crushed, and the whole aspect of this War would have been changed.
I was speaking not long ago to a man of very high endowment, whom I will describe as the greatest intellect now in political affairs in Europe. We discussed this question of Roumania and the Balkan campaign, and he said: "There are times when men must bear the strokes of fate and when they must brace up every nerve stoically to meet the inevitable; but what are our feelings when we see a golden opportunity floating before our eyes, and see the chance missed by sheer futility and incompetence and the road to victory vanishing; and when we are compelled to turn from that picture to a state of affairs which makes us doubtful about the ultimate fate of our nation?" That has been the state of affairs in regard to Roumania. Such has been the Nemesis which has fallen on the supine policy which we have seen on that Front Bench.
I will touch on the question of Greece. We have there an extraordinary spectacle, which on the one hand reminds one of a Gilbert and Sullivan opera, and on the other of a great Sophoclean tragedy. Perhaps some future historian will seize upon that picturesque incident on which to begin in a striking way his first chapter of a book entitled: "The Decline and Fall of the British Empire." We see a King who is closely allied with the Kaiser and has 897 the reputation of holding the Kaiser in a sort of awesome respect, and who, incidentally, happens to be closely related to nearly all the Royal Families in Europe, because they are all related. One aspect of this War, which I venture to say the future historian whom I have indicated will touch upon with feelings even of amazement at the state of mind of the civilised world, is that we behold what one may call a trade-union of Kings, a Trust of Kings on the one side and the march of civilisation on the other; and that Trust of Kings has been favoured by His Majesty's Government.
I do not suggest any kind of intervention in the affairs of Greece, still less any degree of compulsion to force Greece to take sides. One of my own colleagues, in an entirely generous spirit, has suggested that it is a case of interfering with the rights and liberties of small nations. That is not a true picture with regard to Greece. So far as we can judge—of course, we can make allowance for the party feeling of our own newspapers—the great masses of the Grecian population have been true to their instincts, their aspirations, their desire for liberty, and their desire to march in that road, side by side with the Allies, by which they can hope to achieve a glorious future. On the other side we have the King, the état major, the principal officers of the Army, attempting to dragoon the people and to falsify the elections. Thus, rising altogether out of that myth of Constitutional Government which is too often paraded before us, and showing at the critical moment that they are true to type, and that the first instinct of their minds is self-preservation, the interests of their own class and the safety of their thrones.
That is the condition of Greece at the present moment, and I ask why does this Government not enter energetically into the line which is quite in accordance with its own policy and which is almost essential to the safety of the cause. Would they find any obstacle on the part of France? I venture to say "No !" The French forces at Salonika at the present time are under the command of a celebrated general, whose personal acquaintance I have the honour to enjoy, and who in this War has proved himself one of the most capable of all the French leaders. I know that from the beginning, when he took charge of the Salonika forces, his ideas have always been those of a great and capable soldier, but again and again 898 his plans have been baffled by obstacles thrown in his path, and the baffling of his plans means diminishing the chances of the success of the Allies. Had General Sarrail at first been allowed a perfectly free hand, and had his bold and energetic measures been supported, this whole War would have been entering into the last phase and leading to the final victory. Would any hon. Member say that is the condition of affairs now? Has it not been brought home to us, the enormous importance of this Balkan campaign? The Germans themselves recognise its importance, and they are congratulating themselves publicly, by the mouthpiece of the noted exponents of their strategy, that that opportunity has been missed by the Allies.
One of the most extraordinary and indeed humiliating circumstances in connection with this War to my mind has been this, that although there is great brain power in France—I think myself that the French are the most intellectual people in the world—and though there is great brain power in this country, latent though it may often be, hidden and kept down as it often is, yet all the great, bold plans—plans of great imaginative conception, plans of true strategy, plans implying great organising power, and plans involving energetic action—have originated on the side of the Germans. So it was with this Balkan campaign. Once more, as so often had happened, the chance has been presented to the Allies, and once more they have neglected their opportunity, and the German strategists have taken advantage of it. Only a few days ago we were told that Roumania was marching rapidly on to victory, that Austria was at her mercy, that Russian armies were pouring over the Carpathians and would soon be beating at the doors of Vienna. What is the position now? Roumania has been forced to retreat and is threatened in her vital parts. The strategy of Mackensen reminds me of a certain bold thrust of Sir John Moore in the Peninsula which made Napoleon Buonaparte exclaim, "That is the only man fit to fight against myself." Now the situation is one of real jeopardy. Even now, perhaps, it is too late to take decisive action.
And here at this point I would ask the representative of the Foreign Office in regard to this futile handling which has characterised the Government since the beginning of the Balkan campaign, has he or have they been influenced by anything 899 apart from simple strategy or national considerations? Has there been intervention of the Court of England—I ask that question and I do not ask it lightly—to save the throne of one of their relatives, or why has the word gone round throughout the French ranks of the legend of ménagez le Roi—be careful of the King? In this War, the most terrible in human experience, where great ideals are held before our eyes, where millions of soldiers are going down to slaughter, where from the furthest ends of the earth men have rallied to the cry of freedom, aspiring for the advance of civilisation—is all that to be defeated by the cry of ménagez le Roi? I want the people of England, the people of Ireland, and the people of the Dominions to understand this.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Maclean)
As far as I understand, the hon. Member seems to be reflecting upon the Sovereign. That is not in order, except on a substantive Motion placed upon the Order Paper of the House. I am sure that, after the reminder I have given him, the hon. Member will abstain from any further references of the kind.
§ Mr. LYNCH
Certainly I will abstain from any further references; I leave the country to judge. I will now deal with His Majesty's servants. First of all, the Foreign Minister. I do not treat of his policy with the remotest degree of personal animosity. On the contrary, we have all known and admired Lord Grey in this House, and I, myself, have had friendly feelings towards him—if, indeed, those tender filaments of affection can really survive in the chilly atmosphere in which British statesmen love to shroud themselves As far as I can approach these men, in the case of Lord Grey it has been with feelings of real friendship and appreciation. I believe that he has many excellent qualities, but, as a Yankee friend of mine put it in the vernacular, in foreign politics, "be can't play for shucks." I believe that when the history of this War and all its transactions is written with full knowledge of the facts, Lord Grey will be seen to have been one of the disastrous failures on the British side. With all his excellent qualities, he has none of those which fit a man to be a great Minister of Foreign Affairs. He knows very little about foreign affairs to begin with. He has none of the peculiar per- 900 sonal qualities which are essential—neither the finesse of the. French diplomatist, nor the subtlety of the Italian, nor the plastic sympathy, the sense of life of the Slav, nor the bold straight directness of the American.
§ Mr. LYNCH
No. Being interested in this question, I have been at some pains to find out how Lord Grey acquired the enormous reputation that he has. I have traced out the matter in this way; Foreign politics have never been a strong point with Liberal Governments. In the parvenu spirit in which they demean themselves they hardly dare to deal with foreign politics, they are not free of the demesne. Being in want of a Foreign Minister at one time they looked round and found Sir Edward Grey, as he then was, who had the reputation of knowing something of foreign politics—he was too much bolstered up even then—and was vaguely believed to be a Liberal. Accordingly he was chosen, and all would have been well in time of peace. Living as we did, we see it when we look back, in the stuffy atmosphere of hypocrisy and make-believe, which is the very air we breathe in politics, particularly in this House, I daresay, if things had gone on smoothly, all his virtues would have figured magnificently on a tombstone. But in such a crisis as this you want character. Where you want a great character, a great man, Lord Grey has been found lamentably wanting. All the great names of States and events that one could mention from the beginning of the War are only so many symbols of his incompetence.
I leave him for the moment, and proceed to the Prime Minister himself. The time has come for plain talking and salutary counsel. I say a still greater failure in the whole management of this War has been the Prime Minister himself. From the very beginning, instead of standing out as a great leader of the nation he has contented himself with all those tricks of sweet-water Machiavellis, putting down the plummet here to test the way of the main stream and guiding his boat accordingly in those waters—always the trick of the opportunist politician, always the chicanery of the lawyer; never once boldly facing a menacing external situation with the determination to solve a dangerous problem, never exercising powers of prevision, forethought 901 and good judgment; only a policy of drift, and then coming down to this House with that extraordinarily impressive air of his and persuading us that a situation lamentably bad—bad through his faults—is the best that could possibly happen in the best of all possible worlds. I am here reminded of the lines:But Clacbus was the middle-class in brief,With all their virtues held on life-long lease,Of Opportunist-politicians chief,And Mediocrity's great masterpiece.I could give a list of names of statesmen which it might seem extraordinary to mention to the British House of Commons, although in reference to a nation which claims to be the greatest nation the world has ever seen—we are entitled to look high—names of men who have stood out as particularly great men and particularly great leaders. I do not ask anything ex-extraordinary in this sense. I do not wish to rehearse the attributes of men of genius from Themistocles to Richelieu. We have a right to demand the qualities which have been exhibited in times of crisis by men who had previously laid no claim to greatness, but who, when tried in the furnace, were found to be gold; such men as homely plain Abe Lincoln, my friend Louis Botha, or Sir Henry Campbell Bannerman—men who led, men capable of taking great decisions, men equal to laying down the lines of great policies and firmly pushing them to their legitimate conclusion. Instead of the great qualities of luminosity of mind, true judgment, organising power, and energy, and real compelling force, we have the continual spectacle of experience only in the tricks of politics and wire-pulling, and all those doubtful secondary virtues, and never one sign of a great man leading a great nation to victory. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why don't you send your name in"?]
No doubt again and again the opportunity will present itself to me to make a speech somewhat on these lines. Again and again the Government will have blundered, and again and again disasters which could have been avoided will have been presented to us. I want to point out to the House the seriousness of the whole situation. What we are here discussing now is vital to the conduct of the War. Blunders mean the lives of men; blunders mean rivers of blood; blunders mean mountain of corpses. Blunders arise when a great crisis is presented, if you fail to inspire yourselves with the princples of true statesmanship and allow your minds to be 902 diverted as you have by merely secondary motives, some of them of a kind which defeat the intentions and run counter to the ideals which we hold up to the nations of the world.
§ Mr. GRETTON
I very much regret that the matter to which I desire to call attention should be brought on at this late hour, but I shall put the points I wish to refer to as briefly as possible. The question I raise has reference to the blockade. The whole question of the blockade has been greatly altered by the repudiation of the Declaration of London. The Order in Council issued 7th July last, however, in some degree contained a pale reflection of one or two points which originally were incorporated in the Declaration of London. The meaning of the Order is not very clear. The first paragraph lays down that it shall be a presumption that a vessel proceeding to an enemy destination is loaded with enemy goods. It clearly is a matter, after the vessel is examined, to be sent to the Prize Court for decision, for that Court is the only authority which can definitely decide any case of doubt; no declaration by Order-in-Council can effectively deal with the subject. There is the Zamorra judgment which lays down—I cannot give the exact words, but I can give an accurate purport of it—that a Prize Court is not to take its law from Orders-in-Council, and if a Court is to decide judicially, and in accordance with the Law of Nations, it cannot in doubtful cases take its directions from the Crown. I am very well aware that there are very great difficulties in bringing all these cases before the Prize Court, and for that purpose the Contraband Committee was set up. But the Contraband Committee has carried its functions too far, and matters which required decision, and ought to have been decided by a Prize Court, have in fact not reached it, but have been dealt with by a new and illegal body standing between the executive officers of the Crown and the Courts set up to decide cases of doubt.
The only other point quoted in the Order-in-Council about which I desire to inquire, is Paragraph 4. It contains a frank recognition of Article 40 of the Declaration of London that a vessel is liable to confiscation if she carries 50 per cent. of contraband. I contend that this proportion is much too high. This is an easier rule to administer than the old rule that you must prove that the captain of the ship knew that the vessel 903 was carrying contraband that under modern conditions is even more difficult to prove than of old, but 50 per cent. is arbitrary, and is in any case too high. This matter requires further examination and revision. I want to refer also to another matter of great importance that has been several times raised here, and which certainly needs clearing up. I hope the Noble Lord will be able to say something definite in the matter. How far does the Government at present consider that the proceedings are governed by the Declaration of Paris? It is quite clear that the First Article of the Declaration of Paris has, from the outbreak of the War, been consistently broken to our detriment. It has never ben agreed to universally by neutral nations or it has been broken by our enemies. I regard the Declaration by the Government as irregular, and it is very doubtful whether it has any effect. For practical purposes it is true that this part of the Declaration is not being carried out by enemy countries, and the whole Declaration of Paris for which the First Article was the consideration offered to this country, is a serious detriment to the proper carrying out of the blockade. The Second Article is a great hindrance to the blockade. It lays down that the neutral flag covers merchandise with the exception of contraband of war. That is all new doctrine; it is not part of the Law of Nations. It was only assented to because at that time the Government of this country considered it advantageous that the world at large and to this country considered that privateering should be abolished. Now that privateering or its equivalent is indulged in by the enemy I contend that it is no longer binding on this country that we should work under this Second Article.
I will not refer to one or two other matters which I intended to raise. In regard to the blockade generally I am not going into details. I will only say this: There is no doubt there has been an improvement in the measures for carrying out the blockade. I am not one of those who expect, under modern conditions, that any blockade should be, in all respects, perfect. But what we are aiming at is to make it as perfect as possible, and with as little leakage as the circumstances will allow. The Government have taken one step which has been of great assistance. They are appointing more competent Con- 904 sular agents and getting better staff supervision at the ports of departure whence goods are sent by neutral countries trading with the enemy, and in; this way they are getting better information of what is going on. But a great deal more needs to be done. It is the unfortunate fact that the Foreign Office by tradition for many years has been divorced from the Consular Service. Trade questions, trade problems and matters of that kind have been despised by the Diplomatic Service, and it has been considered something unworthy of the dignity of a Diplomatic official, or one trained in the higher diplomacy, to soil his hands with the sordid subject of trade and finance. But trade and finance are at the root of this War, and now is the time to make a great change that is necessary to reinforce the Consular Service, and obtain the greatest efficiency of the blockade. The Consular Service ought to be an integral part of the Diplomatic Service.
There is another matter, that of the dealings with the Overseas Trusts. While, no doubt, we get fair play, it must be remembered that the gentlemen controlling these trusts are, after all, not British subjects, that their first duty is to the neutral Power whose subjects they are, and that these gentlemen, of course, very rightly, interpret cases of doubt, or cases which are not clearly interpretable in favour of this country, in favour of their own fellow-subjects. You must expect them to do so, and therefore care is necessary by experts on the spot to see that we do get, at any rate, the swing of the pendulum and fair play in the determination of these agreements. I think the Government often get misled. For instance, in calculating the imports into a certain foreign country—I think it was Denmark—someone on behalf of the Government took the tonnage of the ships entering the port. What does "tonnage" mean? Is it gross tonnage, net tonnage, foreign tonnage, or British tonnage? How is the cargo to be calculated? All these matters are very misleading, and require close investigation.
I want to refer to the Memorandum issued by the Allied Governments dealing with the question of submarines. It is a most extraordinary document. It was, apparently, taken from nowhere. It bore the signature of nobody, so far as we know, but was published as a Memorandum CD. 8,349, and this kind of leaflet, with a few pious opinions of a very loose and indefinite kind, was sent broadcast to neutral 905 Powers. It is clear on the face of it that it was drawn up in French and very loosely and badly translated into English. [An HON. MEMBER: "Read it out."] It would take too long. The document was sent broadcast. That is not the way to deal with the new question of submarines. It is a very difficult question requiring great consideration. Submarines are new instruments of war, and in many respects do not conform to the old rules of war. They can only be brought into line with the principles of the Laws of Nations by careful consideration of the application of those principles to the new conditions
In the first place there is the question of blockade. I maintain that a submarine cannot be a commerce destroyer or a blockade vessel at a long distance from her base and at the same time conform to the Law of Nations, because it is essential, according to the Law of Nations, that no ship shall be destroyed on the sea except in case of a most urgent necessity. The submarine sets out with the intention of destroying vessels because she cannot take captured vessels into port at such long distances from her base. Submarines are sent for raiding commerce, and there are very few cases of captured vessels being taken into port by submarines, and in no case has that been done by Germany at more than a very few miles from the Belgian ports. The submarine cannot put a prize crew on board and navigate the vessel into port, nor can she take the necessary measures to ensure the safety of the passengers and crew. If a submarine decides to violate the law of nations and sinks a vessel, I claim that the Government should act and issue to neutral nations their decision on this point. Norway has thought the matter out and has decided upon her line of action which she has announced to the world, and the decision of Norway contrasts most favourably with the feeble and fumbling document which the Government has agreed to. I do not wish to go further into the question of submarines. A submarine is of a different type to any other vessel employed in war, and she is properly differentiated by one fact, that it is important that this vessel should be able, at times, to come to the surface to obtain air and the rest which are vital to her crew, and is thus exposed to attack and capture. The fact that she has to come to the surface differentiates a submarine from every other vessel and this makes the use of neutral waters of more importance to 906 such a vessel than to any other ship, for they are to her a port of rest and refreshment. I hope the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs will be able to give me satisfaction on some of these points. I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree that I have not made these remarks in any unfriendly spirit to the Foreign Office.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
I wish to raise a matter which arose out of the reply which the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs made relating to a question which I put to him. It is relevant to the issue which has been raised by the hon. Member for West Clare (Mr. Lynch). The hon. Member has asked why is Greece not fighting on the side of the Allies? The question I want to put is whether it is the desire of all the Allies to have Greece fighting on our side? In the "Morning Post" last week there appeared a long communique from Athens in which it was stated that, in reply to a question by the Greek Government, the Minister at Athens, on behalf of Monsieur Briand, stated that Italy was strongly opposed to Greece's intervention or our side. It was stated that if Greece would declare war on Bulgaria the Allies would accept this proposition and would promise to aid Greece to carry on the War and interest themselves at the proper time on behalf of Greek interests. I want to know whether it is true that Italy has opposed the intervention of Greece on the side of the Allies. The right hon. Gentleman replied that such a question was not in the public interest. Surely the public here have a right to call attention to a statement made by the French Prime Minister. But the matter goes much further than the opposition of Italy to the intervention of Greece. I desire to know whether the opposition which I believe Russia set up to the intervention of Greece still exists? I have read the report of a debate which took place in the Greek Chamber about 4th November last year. In the course of the controversy between Monsieur Gournaris, who had just then succeeded Monsieur Venizelos, these statements were made. Monsieur Gournaris asked Monsieur Venizelos, who had stated that he had sent out a communication to three of the Allies asking whether they desired the participation of Greece in the Dardanelles attack, if he had seen the replies of the various Cabinets Venizelos said: "I gave in my resignation on the Saturday and I do not think the replies had then arrived." From those replies I presume that Russia did not desire at that 907 time the participation of Greece because she might set up a counter claim for Constantinople. The succeeding Prime Minister, in an interview which appeared in the "Daily Chronicle," definitely makes the statement expressly forbidding, in the event of their success, the Greek Government establishing their flag within fifty miles of the ancient Byzantine capital. The question I wish to ask is whether this opposition on the part of our Allies to the intervention of Greece has been withdrawn. Has any offer been made to Greece that territorial compensation will be made to her similar to that which has been made to other small States and countries?
I think this is a matter of very serious import. I think that very many people are perturbed at what has happened, in view of the fact that we are ostensibly fighting on behalf of small nationalities. If Greece in the past has failed to come in, and has been prevented owing to opposition from Russia, because that country is desirous of having control of Constantinople and the Dardanelles, and if at a subsequent period Greece offered to come in, but opposition was set up by Italy, also for territorial reasons, then I think we must agree that Greece has not altogether had justice in this matter. Our diplomacy has entirely failed, perhaps. For those reasons I should like to have some statement on this matter from the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. I am not asking for secrets, as these are statements which have been published in public journals.
§ Lord R. CECIL
I do not want to detain the House at this hour for more than a few minutes. The hon. Member who has just sat down (Mr. Outhwaite) has repeated at somewhat greater length a question which I felt it my duty to tell him on an earlier occasion I could not answer with due regard to public interest. I am afraid I can only give him that reply on the present occasion. Obviously—quite obviously, I should think—it would be impossible for any minister at this stage and under these conditions, to enter into a discussion on what we have said or are going to say or what others of our Allies have said or are going to say to Greece in reference to the present crisis in European affairs. In regard to the speech of the hon. Member for Clare (Mr. Lynch), to which I paid great attention. I am sorry to say that I do not in the 908 least understand what it was that he really wanted to accuse the Government of. There was a great deal of vague denunciation of Balkan strategy, and in one passage he appeared to hint at some obscure had disreputable influence as having been brought to bear upon the Councils of the Government and of the Allies. As far as the strategy in the Balkans is concerned, it has been exclusively and entirely dictated by military considerations and military advice. I believe I am right in saying the only people who have had anything to say in deciding such movement of the troops as there has been are those who in war time must decide those things, namely, the military advisers of the Government. As to any suggestion that any person whether strictly a member of the Government or not, has used any influence to deflect the policy of this country from considerations of sound strategy, I can only say that such a suggestion is absolutely baseless, and is an insinuation to Parliament quite unworthy of this House, and one which ought not to have been made. That is really all I have to say upon the subject spoken of by the hon. Member for Clare.
There was a speech by the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Gretton) on a totally different matter. He asked a number of questions about the blockade. I am sure he will pardon me if I deal with the questions he asked rather briefly. As I understood him, he put two questions with respect to what was the exact position in reference to the Declaration of London, particularly why we had kept alive, or sought to keep alive, the provision which renders ships, a portion of whose cargo is contraband, liable to confiscation. As he knows quite well, no such provision used to exist in the law of this country, and it is not even certain, even now—I say so quite frankly—that such provision would be enforced by the Prize Courts. We believe it is a reasonable deduction from law and from the conditions of modern war. We believe it is a reasonable thing to say that if a captain has on board his ship more than 50 per cent. of contraband he must be assumed to have known that he had such a large contraband cargo as that, and we have laid that down in principle—a principle which we believe to be sanctioned by a very large number of States, and to be in itself reasonable, and one which, if necessary, we shall seek to maintain in the Prize Courts. It is not in any way a diminution; if it is anything at all it is an extension, and it is 909 only on that ground it has been retained in. the Order in Council. With regard to the position of the Contraband Committee, on that there is a little misapprehension. In an ordinary blockade the only thing you have to decide is whether a ship is going to a blockaded port. Under the present blockade, as my hon. Friend knows, there are a lot of other considerations. You have to decide whether the ultimate destination of the cargo is not a neutral port but an enemy destination. That is a matter which it is very difficult to be sure about. The papers of the ship will probably give no information with regard to it. You must investigate it by consideration of other circumstances. You must have somebody to say whether there is a primâ facie case for submitting it to a Prize Court. The only function of the Contraband Committee is to decide whether there is sufficient ground for taking the cargo or any portion of it before the Prize Court. Somebody must do that. I think such a Committee as has been constituted with all the apparatus and information which has been gradually accumulated for its use is the most useful instrument for that purpose. I do not think there really is any ground whatever for thinking the Committee has exceeded its jurisdiction. I say, speaking after some considerable experience of its working, that I think the country owes it a deep debt of gratitude for the admirable way in which it is performing its function.
I pass rapidly to the Declaration of Paris. My hon. Friend will know the Declaration of Paris is a binding international instrument—recognised to be binding on this Government. The Government has said so. We do not admit—I won't go into the arguments—that anything we have done has been an infringement of its provisions, and we do not believe that properly construed they hinder the carrying on of the Blockade in a proper direction. I pass to the Consular Service merely to say that I heartily agree with my hon. Friend that a closer connection between the Consular Service and the Diplomatic Service is in itself a very desirable thing. I think, however, he exaggerates the view that diplomats do not care about trade. That may have been true once. I do not think it is in the least true now, but whether true or not I quite agree the two services ought to be as closely connected as possible and as far as we are able to give.
910 any attention to anything except the War, that matter is occupying the attention of His Majesty's Government. We are doing our best to think out what alteration in the Consular Service ought to be made in order to secure what we all desire to bring about. I will only say one other word and that is as to submarines. I did not quite understand what my hon. Friend's criticism of the Memorandum issued by the Allied Governments is. Is his complaint that it is a Memorandum issued not by this Government but by the Allied Governments? It is stated on the title of the doucument itself that it is not intended to be a full discussion of the whole submarine question. It points to particular events which had already occurred in the course of the War, and to the dangers in case of submarines frequenting neutral ports and other matters of that kind. It deals with only those particular points. I quite agree that some day or another it will be necessary to consider the whole status of submarines, what they ought to or ought not to be allowed to do as a matter of international law. That is not the purpose or intention of this Memorandum. It is merely drawing the attention of neutrals to certain dangers and to certain risks which they themselves will run if they permit submarines to make use of their ports in the same way and with the same liberties and privileges that other ships of war are entitled to. It is for that purpose, and for that purpose only, this Memorandum is issued. I do not think any just criticism can be made upon the utility of His Majesty's Government in issuing such a document. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the care and restraint with which he dealt with the subject. I think he will agree that recent events have shown this action was not unnecessary and that the Memorandum was issued not a moment too soon. I do not think that there is anything else which I can say usefully on the occasion of this Debate. I merely conclude by saying I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the tone in which he dealt with this subject.
§ Major HUNT
I quite agree with the hon. Member for Clare that Lord Grey is the worst Foreign Minister we have ever had in war time. We are told in the country generally that he has been considerably under the influence of Lord Haldane, and in the country Lord Haldane is generally looked upon as a pro-German, though I do not think 911 he can be under the influence of anybody who is German. He was the person chiefly responsible for the Declaration of London which is now, according to the Noble Lord himself, admitted to have been an enormous mistake. Surely there is no doubt about that. Although all the dangers were pretty well brought forward, the Government tried very hard to get it passed into law. If it had been, it would have been a very serious thing for us in this country. That is one thing. Then, in my opinion, and I am quite sure in the opinion of a great number of other people, he and the Prime Minister between them so crippled the Navy that it was the cause of the loss of many, many thousands of good lives. If they had allowed the Navy to do its work as permitted by International law, and as the Americans used theirs in the Civil War, in all human probability this War would have been over before now. I believe those Gentlemen sitting there on the Front Bench now know it perfectly well. They tell us that we could not use our sea power as we were entitled to according to International law, because if we did we should have had all the other nations against us. What humbug! Are we really to be told that if we had used our just rights properly we should have had war made on us when neutral countries will stand Germany drowning their women and children in neutral ships. Are we going to be told that? That is one of the things this Government, and the Unionists, too, will have to answer for to the people when the next General Election comes, and it will serve the Unionist leaders perfectly right if they share the condemnation; at all events, that is my opinion. I also quite agree with the hon. Member for Clare that the Roumanian position is a very dangerous one, and that, as usual, we are in great danger of being too late. We failed to save Belgium and Serbia, and I believe that people all over the country are very much afraid that we are going to be too late to save Roumania. Hon. Gentlemen do not seem to like what I am saying, but I am sure that there is a great deal of anxiety about the Roumanian question. Think what is going to happen if the Germans overrun Roumania! It would have a terrible effect on our prestige, and it would give to Germany very large quantities of foodstuff, and of oil—two things that she is most in need of. It would be a terrible blow to the Entente Powers. I do not want to say anything out of order, but 912 I would like to know why is it we are not actively helping Roumania at the present time? Is it because we are afraid to back up Venezelos and the majority of the Greek people against the Greek King, who is nothing but a humble satellite of the German Emperor, and who is dead against us? I want to know what is to prevent us from going to the help of Roumania and ignoring altogether the Greek King. If we fail to save Roumania there is this danger—Germany will make an enormous effort to get some sort of peace terms as a result of overrunning that country. That, at all events, is how I understand it. I think His Majesty's Government ought to make every possible effort to go in some way to the assistance of Roumania before it is too late.
I only want to say two or three words about the blockade. I am sorry the Noble Lord is not here, because I should like to remind him that when he first became Blockade Minister he told me, because I suggested it was quite time the Government took the gloves off, that I was inconceivably offensive. The curious part of it is that ever since then he has been trying to get the Government to take the gloves off, and I am bound to say he has had a certain amount of success. Let me also say that I am quite sure he is doing his best, though I am afraid by no means altogether successfully. In the House the other day I asked him a question in which I showed from the American statistics how countries neighbouring on Germany were receiving from America from three to six times the quantity of goods that they got in 1914, and that, of course, the inference must be that a great deal of those goods went to Germany and helped her to keep the War going. I had got a supplementary prepared for him but he disarmed me by saying he would see any Member who honestly wished to talk about the blockade. As I thought that would include me, I did not like at the time to ask a supplementary question. I have not had the pleasure of seeing him yet. I am afraid that the blockade cannot be called a success at the present time. There is an enormous leakage going on. I have got, unfortunately, a flying son living in Holland, interned there, and I know from absolute evidence that at all events some little time ago both the Germans and the Dutchmen in Holland were always laughing at the absurdity of what was called the British blockade, and there were many 913 cases of poor people getting very, very rich all of a sudden, undoubtedly through the money they made by smuggling goods over in to Germany. All the facts go to prove that an enormous amount of stuff has gone from Holland and neutral countries into Germany, which we might have stopped and which has undoubtedly prolonged the War to a great extent and caused the loss of many, many thousands of our best lives. That is the fault of the Government because they funked to stick out for our just rights at sea; and I hope that now they are beginning to realise the seriousness of the situation and the power of Germany and the difficulty of ending the War with a. satisfactory peace, there will be in the future a really strict blockade; and I am sure that if there is we ought to finish the War at all events next year.
§ Question, "That the Bill be now read the third time," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read the third time, and passed.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.
§ And, it being after Half-past Eleven of the clock upon Thursday evening, Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.
§ Adjourned accordingly at Twelve minutes before One o'clock a.m., till Tuesday next, 24th October, pursuant to the Resolution of the House of this day.