§ Debate resumed (according to Order) on the statement of the Government's policy made by the Lord Chancellor.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (LORD PARMOOR)
My Lords, it is rather irksome to me, and I am sure it is irksome to your Lordships, that it should be necessary to interpolate in a debate on matters of importance a mere personal statement. But I think it is due to your Lordships that I should make, quite shortly, an answer to the speech of the noble and learned Earl, Lord Birkenhead, whom I do not see in his place at the moment. The noble Earl asked me to be direct and lucid, and I will attempt to be so. Although I think it is due to your Lordships to answer his speech, I should be very sorry if it were supposed that one's withers Shad been wrung by the little mischief-making speech, if I may so call it, which the noble Earl delivered yesterday.
§ THE MARQUESS CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I hesitate to interrupt the noble Lord, but would it be worth while postponing the personal vindication which we all expect him to offer until the noble and learned Earl, Lord Birkenhead, is here?
§ LORD PARMOOR
I think there is a great deal in the suggestion of the noble Marquess, and had he made it at the commencement: I should have been glad to follow it; but I am very unwilling to prolong a matter of this kind. I am going to say but a very few words. As I said, one's withers are quite unwrung, and I want to say only one or two words in reply to what was said by the noble and learned Earl, who must have known from the time of the adjournment that this matter would be the first to be dealt with. Let me state directly and lucidly that I hope I am not a person who would serve under any Prime Minister or join any Government with whose policy I was not fully in accord. I trust that that is both direct and lucid, and in a moment I will show your Lordships how fully I am in accord with the policy as adumbrated up to this point by the Prime Minister in the statement that he has made. It goes without saying, of course, that every honourable man would agree with the statement made by my noble friend Lord Chelmsford, that if, in the course of events, some proposal were made with which, in principle, a member of the Cabinet could not agree, it is obvious that he would resign. I am glad to say that for the moment I see no cloud on the horizon so far as I know what the policy is likely to be.
That policy really falls under four heads which have already been discussed in this House and which were stated by my noble friend the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack. On foreign policy, which to my mind takes the foremost place, I admit I am entirely in accord with the statements made by the Prime Minister and I am not ashamed to say, as an idealist, a Christian idealist, that I hope our foreign policy may be founded on the doctrine of "On earth peace, good will towards men." I am not ashamed to say that; but an idealist is not a prophet. One has a vision of what may be, but the most one may hope at 123 any one time is to take a step. The advantage of having vision is that you take all the care you can that that step shall be in the right direction. I was going to say something about the noble Earl's views expressed, I think, at Glasgow, but in his absence I refrain from doing so.
As regards the League of Nations, I was delighted to hear what was said by both the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess Curzon of Kedleston) and the noble Viscount, Lord Grey of Fallodon, and especially the remark of the noble Viscount when he said that he hoped the foreign policy would be what he called a League of Nations policy. Your Lordships who have been in the House during the last two years will know how constantly I have endeavoured to bring about a League of Nations policy so far as I have influence in addressing your Lordships. I shall say by and by, when I come to closer quarters with this matter, how much I think we are indebted to the attitude that has been taken up in regard to it by the noble Marquess opposite. Although perhaps it is not strictly part of a personal explanation I should like to add this—because, in a certain sense, it comes within the purlieu of the same idea. The noble Viscount, Lord Grey of Fallodon, expressed the view that the League of Nations policy could not be effectively carried out unless the work was done under the Foreign Office régime and in the Foreign Office. I understood hat to be his view. I entirely agree with him, and the first requisition that I made m undertaking the duties of a representative of this country on the League of Nations was that I must be housed for all purposes within the Foreign Office. The noble Viscount will be glad to hear that arrangements have been made which I think are of a most ample character, so that what he desired as the basis of the League of Nations policy has, in fact, already been carried out. I see opposite the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil of Chelwood. I shall ask to refer again to him at a later stage. I think his experience will be the same as that of the noble Viscount, Lord Grey—namely, that it is all in the right direction that the League of Nations representative should be brought directly into the Foreign Office and in direct contact with foreign policies.
124 I may add a word about one other matter. I have been asked to do what I can, on occasion, to assist your Lordships in giving information on matters of foreign policy. That is a great honour as well as a difficult task to discharge in this House when I sec here the noble Marquess opposite, Lord Lansdowne, and Viscount Grey, but I thought it would be impossible to do that—and I expressed this view at the outset—unless I was allowed in the Foreign Office to see all the Foreign Office documents, and at the present time they are all allowed to pass through my hands so far as they affect League of Nations matters. I think the noble Viscount will appreciate what I mean. No decision is come to upon League of Nations matters until it has been brought to my notice, and I have been allowed to make a note of what the views are from the League of Nations standpoint. That is a second matter in regard to which I am bound to say I am in absolute agreement with the policy of His Majesty's Government.
Two other matters were mentioned. One was the housing question, and the other the unemployment question. I think the housing question is in a scandalous position at the present time. I have had a good deal of experience of welfare work both in the country and in our large town". It is true that a large expenditure will be necessary. No one can deny that for a moment. But if you want moral improvement in the conditions of the industrial population of this country the first necessary step is to see that the people are adequately and properly housed. On that point, of course within due limits and working in an economical fashion, I think that no expenditure ought to be saved because the general outlook of our national life depends upon the purity of our home life and on the houses of our working classes.
As to unemployment, I would say that unemployment, is one of the most demoralising factors that you can have. Being fond of work myself I always pity the man who wants work and cannot find it. We know that unemployment has cost this country a futile expenditure of somewhere about £100,000,000 a year. That is wasted money, and is demoralising in its tendencies. What is the right policy? It is in every way to seek to obtain employment under natural economic conditions. 125 That is the first stop. I think your Lordships will find that that is a policy which will be followed. Secondly—and this is a matter which cannot be overlooked--in order to provide stability of employment, we must have a reconstruction of the foreign markets on which we have relied in the past. They must be put into a stable condition by a peace settlement. I do not think anyone will deny either of those conditions.
I am sorry the noble Earl, Lord Birkenhead, is not here, but he used what I may term the slogan cry "Socialist.'' That means nothing to me, used in that way. One of the great difficulties of modern life is to dovetail the claims of the individual and the claims of society. You have to consider in each case how to do that. No one in this country can live as though he were Robinson Crusoe on a desert island. You have a difficult problem. You cannot approach it by shouting slogan cries one way or the other. You have to consider what the proposal is, and whether it is really in the national interests that it should be advanced even in what is sometimes called a Socialist direction For myself I am perfectly willing to meet the noble Earl on any of our proposals, and to convince him—outside any cry of this kind that that proposal is necessary and right for the benefit of the industrial classes, and of other members of society, having regard to the conditions of civilisation under which we live. I hope we shall have an end of what I call slogan cries. They may be good enough on the platform, but they cannot have very much effect in your Lordships' House.
Before I come to foreign policy and the. League of Nations, there is one matter with which I should like to deal for a moment, and that is the Poplar matter. Let me say quite clearly how that stands. I think the noble Marquess would like me to do that. I will not say that he was alarmed, but he thought he saw difficulties in the decision. It is simply this. Certain surcharges were made which two Governments never tried to enforce, or thought that they could in any way enforce. I think it is just not to leave a hanging liability of that kind over the heads of men who are after all, trying to perform a public duty, when you have already made up your mind, and you know perfectly well, that the surcharge will never be enforced. That 126 is my view of the decision. I do not know-how many of your Lordships have served as guardians, but in the old days I served as one for many years, and a more tiresome and thankless duty it is impossible to imagine. Although I am utterly opposed to what the Poplar guardians did as a matter of principle, one can have some sympathy with guardians who have to work under the conditions which exist in the Poplar district. As regards the other side of the question, no change at all is made. There was what is called an absolute limitation, connected with Sir Alfred Mond's name, that had come to an end, and the only limitation which now exists is the limitation of a contribution of 9d. from the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund. That limited amount is not touched. The limit exists now as it existed before. The other limitations upon the' action of the Board of Guardians arise either from Statute or Common Law. All those limitations remain in Poplar as in the ease of oilier boards of guardians.
§ VISCOUNT CAVE
Has not the Order of the Ministry of Health limiting the expenditure of the Poplar Guardians on poor relief been rescinded?
No, that is the misunderstanding. I think I am perfectly right in this respect. I have a great admiration for the sturdy independence of the Minister of Health. He thought he saw an injustice and desired to remedy it. Perhaps a more carefully-minded man might not have put this matter right at this moment.
§ LORD PARMOOR
The hanging liability which was never intended to be enforced. I do not want to discuss this matter further. It has been explained already in public, but if any noble Lord desires it can be discussed again at a future time. I want to come to the real subjects on which I desire to reply—partly on the question of the League of Nations and partly on matters connected with foreign policy. I hope on these points that I shall be able to give the assistance which I desire to give to your Lordships' House from information which I have at my disposal.
127 One word of general history. Your Lordships will recollect that during the war, in the spring of 1918, the principle of the League of Nations was adopted. I recollect very well the speech which the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition made on that occasion. I brought forward the Resolution, which was amended by the late Viscount Bryce. I accepted the Amendment, and the noble Marquess was good enough to say, on behalf of the Government, that he accepted the principle of the Resolution. Therefore this House has the honour of being the pioneer in the acceptance of this great principle, and I expected to find a larger measure of assistance in connection with the League of Nations in this House than anywhere else.
The particular matter to which attention has been called is the question of disarmament. I have been in communication with the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil of Chelwood, on this point. He has a Question on the Order Paper in the following terms:—To ask His Majesty's Government whether they have formulated a policy concerning the reduction of armaments under Article 8 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, and whether the Lord President is in a position to give any information on the subject"—and he has intimated that it would be convenient to him if I expressed my views at this stage so that he could then answer them in the course of the debate. It is of enormous advantage to your Lordships' House to have the views of the noble Viscount, with his experience, devotion and untiring energy in connection with the League of Nations. He deserves every praise it is possible to give him.
I recollect stating in this House that I thought disarmament must accompany the League of Nations Covenant and that it was impossible to hope for the full influence of the League of Nations unless you had a measure of relative disarmament; that means general disarmament, having regard to the different conditions of different countries. A very notable speech was made on that occasion by the Marquess of Lansdowne. It is hardly possible to find anywhere a man of greater experience to advise your Lordships on a matter of this kind. He spoke kindly of what I had said, but he shook his head at the notion of concurrent disarmament. He told us a 128 story of how it had been tried in other days and had failed. Ambassadors were sent round in order to count the number of men present on reviews in order to see that the conditions had been fulfilled. He was perfectly right, but he will agree with me that the sooner we can get a measure of disarmament the greater is the probability of the success of the League of Nations. Another notable speech was made by a great jurist, Lord Parker, who insisted upon a factor which is of the greatest importance—namely, that you will not get success with the League of Nations by trying to force it forward unwillingly. You must wait and get a large measure of general assent, and when you have that measure of general assent you can hope for the full benefit of the League of Nations.
I want to deal particularly with what Viscount Cecil of Chelwood has done in this matter. It is very notable indeed. Article 8 of the Covenant places the initiative in this matter on the Assembly of the League. It is after the League itself has taken the initiative that the matter is referred back to the respective Governments. Of course, nothing can be carried, ultimately, without the assent of the respective Governments. Your Lordships can appreciate how enormously difficult and thorny is the pathway to consent on matters of this kind. But what has the noble Viscount done in connection with what is called the Treaty of Mutual Guarantee? The noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition will know that the matter was considered while he was at the Foreign Office, and it is being considered now. I have taken great care to get this short historical sketch accurate. If it is not accurate I apologise to the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, and perhaps he will follow me in order to see if it is accurate. I have obtained it through the assistance of a devoted adherent of his, who has transferred his assistance to me—Mr. Philip Baker. In July, 1922, Lord Cecil proposed what is called the Temporary Mixed Commission, and the adoption of four Resolutions based on certain principles. The first, with which we shall all agree, was that if you are to have a reduction of armaments it must be general; the second, that since many Governments were unwilling to reduce their armaments without other compensating guarantees for their security there should be a 129 mutual obligation of assistance among States whose armaments were reduced.
That brings up the question whether this Treaty of Mutual Guarantee is a practical method or not. I do not wish to say more than a word or so on that at the moment. This Treaty was laid before the Assembly, and I want merely to refer to one of the Resolutions to which the Assembly came. I think it is entirely sound and wholly right. The Assembly resolved that no disarmament would be possible until the great problems of Europe—Reparations, inter-Allied indebtedness, etc.—had been settled. I think the Assembly there put its hand upon the really vital question. If we could get these matters settled, and as soon as they are settled, I, at any rate, am one of those who hope that disarmament would follow. But I think one has to face the other alternative, that it is exceedingly difficult to suppose that the countries mainly involved are likely to reduce their armaments until these great questions which are unfortunately disturbing the peace of Europe can be finally settled and disposed of.
The Assembly next invited the various Governments to give their opinions upon this point. Various Committees and so on were involved, but the effect of the consideration of this matter was that the Assembly did not in any way adopt or approve the Treaty, as a considerable number of delegates, including the British, were unable to commit their Governments. The noble Marquess opposite will be quite cognisant of that fact. The Assembly decided, therefore, to transmit the draft Treaty to the Governments for their observations, requesting that these observations might be sent in time to be discussed at the Fifth Assembly. The Fifth Assembly takes place next September and not before, and all I can tell your Lordships is that before the Fifth Assembly meets His Majesty's Government will have had an opportunity of deciding what they believe to be the right action in connection with the suggested Treaty of Mutual Guarantee which Viscount Cecil of Chelwood has brought forward. It is, of course, impossible for me or for anyone to make a statement while a policy of that kind is under consideration. It involves most complex questions, both in the Foreign Office itself and also in the great Departments of the War Office and of the 130 Admiralty and in the Committee over which the noble Viscount on the Woolsack presides, but I am entitled to promise that most careful and sympathetic inquiry will be made into the noble Viscount's proposals, because His Majesty's Government acknowledge fully his devoted work on these topics and the great weight of his authority on all matters dealing with the League of Nations. Beyond that I cannot go, because it is impossible to invent, as it were, the end and the result of an inquiry when neither an end nor a result has been attained. That is a self-evident proposition.
There is one matter about which I had a note which I should like to quote if I can find it. Your Lordships may recollect that lately an admirable step was taken in America in inviting what was called a peace prize essay for which a very large sum was given. That essay contained one very notable statement regarding the matters with which I am now dealing. I am sorry that I have not that statement before me, but it expresses the American view, with which I must say-that I have always felt great sympathy, having had numerous opportunities of talking to Americans on this subject The American view could not coincide with that of the noble Viscount. It would really coincide with the view expressed as a jurist by Lord Parker. They say that you cannot have force in matters of this kind: you must rely upon public opinion, upon the assent of the people involved and upon a higher morality regarding these matters of international intercourse. I believe it was very largely from this point of view that the United States refused to allow that the League of Nations should in any way be regarded as a super-State, though they had been entirely friendly to it. Personally I must say that I think there is enormous weight in the view which the United States have always put forward. It is the alternative view which will have to be considered in connection with the view suggested by Viscount Cecil in his Treaty of Mutual Guarantee. The noble Viscount will, I am sure, tell us—and no one could tell us more ably or more lucidly than he—how he proposes that his scheme should work from a practical standpoint.
I have said, I hope clearly, all that I have to say concerning the League of Nations, but there are one or two other 131 matters concerning foreign policy with which I should like to deal. I will take the various questions asked by the noble Marquess and the noble Viscount, and deal with them one by one, and I will ask the noble Marquess not to mind interrupting me—perhaps I am too old a hand to mind being interrupted—if I seem to omit or to have misunderstood any of the questions that he put to me. The first of them concerns the duplication of the offices of Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary. It is an enormous burden. It is, I think, only patriotism of the highest kind which would lead any one to accept such a burden and at the same time attempt to lead the House of Commons. I only hope that the strength of the Prime Minister may hold out. I should like to add this. The greatest Foreign Minister, in my opinion, of modern times, certainly the greatest peace-time Foreign Minister, was Lord Salisbury. I have always looked hack and re-read again and again what he did and said as Foreign Minister, because I believe that he had one underlying idea, and that was the maintenance of peace and friendliness. He was the greatest Foreign Minister of modern times. He was on four different occasions Foreign Secretary, and certainly on one occasion he duplicated the offices of Premier and Foreign Secretary to the enormous advantage of the foreign policy of this country. It may be barely possible on the grounds of health and vigour, but so long as it can be done it is an enormous advantage to the foreign policy of this country, and no one could have conducted that foreign policy more ably than did Lord Salisbury when he was both Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary at the same time.
§ LORD PARMOOR
No, I agree with the noble Earl. That is an additional burden, and it is this that mates me wonder whether such a burden can be borne. But that does not affect what I am saying concerning the advantage of the duplication if it is possible for human vigour and human vitality to cope with it. I do not think I need go further into the question of France. I am told on every side, and I hear at the Foreign Office, that there is an increase in the 132 spirit of friendliness. The Prime Minister spoke on this topic last night, and the two crucial letters—namely, the Prime Minister's letter to M. Poincaré and M. Poincaré's answer—are known to everyone. I can only say that the spirit which those two letters exhibited has not only been maintained but has been increasing and growing up to the present time.
Then the noble Marquess asked me a very important question about the Palatinate. Everyone knows that the Palatinate is a point upon which the attention of the Foreign Office must be concentrated at the present moment, particularly after Mr. Clive's report. I have received a letter from Sir Eyre Crowe, to whose assistance I am enormously indebted both as regards Foreign Office matters and the League of Nations' affairs, which I am told I might read as an answer to the question which the noble Marquess put to me. He could not have an answer from a higher or more authoritative source. Sir Eyre Crowe says:Certainly you can say that good progress has been made with the negotiations for a settlement in the Palatinate. I think you could even go a little further and say that the three High Commissioners at Coblenz are actually engaged at the moment in working out a plan of settlement on the basis of the general lines agreed upon between the three Governments.I hope your Lordships will think that the answer that I have been able to give to the noble Marquess on that point is in every way satisfactory. I do not think one could have hoped for better progress, within the time, than that which I have indicated. I have nothing special to say about what the noble Marquess called the blockade in the British area, except that the railway conditions are much better than they were, and that matter also is on the way, I hope, to a settlement.
I entirely agree, and I think the Government does also, with what the noble Marquess said about the Ruhr. For the moment nothing can be done until we have the Reports of the two expert Committees. I have a lively hope that when those Reports are received a real advance can be made in the direction of peace and settlement. You will have data and statistics, and I hope that, once for all, this question of the amount of Reparation that can possibly be paid will be settled. It seems almost impossible to hope that while questions of that kind are 133 outstanding general progress can be made with the European settlement. What is wanted is a general settlement and a new era of peace and contentment. That is what everyone here desires and it is what His Majesty's Government are striving to attain.
Next, the noble Marquess asked about the International Conference. I suppose he referred to the suggestion of General Smuts. We are placing our reliance on what the noble Viscount, Lord Grey, called the League of Nations policy. It may be that you will have to look to other sources for the settlement of these international difficulties, but they are not being looked to at the present moment, and I sincerely hope that by negotiations and the League of Nations policy real progress may be made.
§ THE MARQUESS CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I only referred to the matter in my observations last night because of a speech made by an important member of the Government—namely, the Home Secretary—in the country last week, in which he said that it was the intention of the Government to summon an International Conference of the character which I described yesterday.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I am sorry there should be any difference in a statement of that kind. I can only say that it is my duty, among the duties which I have undertaken, to have my rooms in the Foreign Office, and to answer questions for the Foreign Office in this House. If there is any misapprehension I am sorry for it, but I do not think that at the present moment there is any step at all in the direction of an International Conference. The Tangier Convention, for which credit is due to the noble Marquess, has been concluded, and as regarded the American question—the drink traffic and the three-mile limit—as between the United States and ourselves, that question is now settled, which also is a matter entirely to the credit not of this Government but of our predecessors, and the noble Marquess. The Lausanne Treaty will, of course, be brought forward for ratification, and when that period arrives there will be full opportunity afforded for discussion in this House. It is not necessary to refer further to it at the present time. I do not want to recall too vividly to the noble Marquess the tedious weeks 134 and months which he must have spent in negotiating this Treaty—and ultimately every one has to congratulate him.
§ LORD PARMOOR
It will be taken as soon as it can be. I will see that it is taken as soon as possible, and I will consult the noble Marquess's convenience as to the day. The only other question with which I have to deal was really asked by the noble Viscount, Lord Grey, and that was in connection with Russia. I do not intend to go into the general question of Russian policy. There may be differences of opinion. Some people believe that you will succeed best—and it is my own belief—by starting from the friendly side in arriving at a settlement. Other people will take the contrary view. It is a matter upon which there may be legitimate differences of opinion. Your Lordships all know the attitude which His Majesty's Government have taken, hut what I want to say is this, that on the particular point raised by Lord Grey, namely, that the Soviet Government should not send its representatives here to indulge in propaganda as regards our internal life, I hope I can satisfy him, so far as you can satisfy any one upon a matter of this kind, that should occasion arise I imagine that exactly the same action would be taken as he himself would take. I do not know whether your Lordships remember the provision made upon this point in the Not(c) to Russia. Perhaps I may recall it.
§ LORD PARMOOR
It may be the same, and if so it is all the more satisfactory in regard to what the noble Marquess calls continuity in these matters. The Note to Russia, which was written about ten days ago, contains this passage:—It is also manifest that genuinely friendly relations cannot be said to be completely established so long as either party has reason to suspect the other of carrying on propaganda against its interests and directed to the overthrow of its institutions.That is what was stated in our letter to Russia, and this is their answer—it is an 135 extract from the letter of February 6, 1924—My Government, in full accord with the views of the Government of Great Britain, consider that mutual confidence and noninterference in internal affaire remain indispensable conditions for the strengthening and development of friendly relations between the two countries.No human foresight, of course, can prevent possible difficulties in the future, but I hope that the noble Viscount will see that every care is taken in this matter, and I trust that he will regard the answer which has come from the Russian Government as satisfactory.
I hope that to the best of my power I have dealt with the many importent points raised in the debate. One feels, speaking in this House in the presence of the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, and of the noble Marquess, Lord Curzon, and of Lord Grey, a special responsibility in dealing with matters connected with foreign affairs. I was looking back into the history of the Foreign Office and for a very long period of years the Foreign Minister has been, in fact, a member of this House. Of course there was a long interregnum when Sir Edward Grey so notably represented the Foreign Office in the other House.
§ LORD PARMOOR
Yes, (that was so. I was not intending to be exhaustive, but I am sorry that I should have, forgotten so eminent an example. My mind was going back to the time when Lord Salisbury represented the Foreign Office in this House, and when the noble Marquess, in the sanguine days of his youth, when we all admired him so much, represented the Foreign Office in the House of Commons. I can only say that it will be the desire of His Majesty's Government to maintain the great traditions of this House, particularly in matters of such public concern as foreign policy and League of Nations matters. Likely as one is to fail, our desire and our intention is to maintain the high prestige of this House, and, so far as we can, to win its assent to our League of Nations policy and to our policy on foreign questions.
§ EARL RUSSELL, who had on the Paper a Question, "To ask the Lord President of the Council what meaning is to be attached to the expression Parliamentary Labour Party," said:—My Lords, by the courtesy of the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil of Chelwood, who is to follow me, I am allowed to intervene for a few moments at this stage of the debate in order to try to obtain the information which I am seeking from the Government. But before I put my Question it is appropriate that I should congratulate the noble Lord who has just sat down upon the position in which he now finds himself—a position which, I imagine, must surprise him as much as it apparently surprised Mr. Punch.
§ We heard yesterday from the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack that the noble and learned Lord, among his other qualifications, would deal with questions affecting agriculture, on which he was an authority. I confess it crossed my mind that it was fortunate that the noble Marquess, Lord Lincolnshire, was unable to be present in the House when that statement was made, because I think it will be in your Lordships' recollection that there have been some differences of opinion on that matter. It is also. I think, fortunate that, like Cincinnatus, the noble and learned Lord, at the call of his country, has been able to leave his Sabine farm and to plough in your Lordships' House an unaccustomed furrow. We in the Labour Party are fortunate indeed, in having so large a reservoir of talent opposite upon which we are able to draw for our leaders. I confess that I am surprised that a Party has been able to part with such valuable members as it has temporarily lent to the present Prime Minister, and I shall be glad to know whether any approach has been made to the noble Marquess himself, whose sense of public duty, as we ail know, is not less strong than that of any other member of his Party.
§ Under this Government, which speaks with such gentle voices in its protagonists, utters such soothing words, in tones so gentle as at times to be almost inaudible, I think that we find that public apprehension has been allayed, and some fears of noble Lords opposite have been assuaged. Whether that has been done at the expense of principle or at the expense of those fundamental differences between the Labour 137 Party and other Parties in the State which have always been insisted upon at election times, and particularly when fighting my noble friends below the Gangway, I rather wonder, and I think it is possible that at some time or other some inquiry should be made.
§ I have to ask the noble Lord one very simple, and one particular, question. Statements appeared in the public Press when this Parliament first assembled—frequent statements—about the meetings of the Parliamentary Labour Party. A statement appeared in The Times of yesterday morning that on the previous day there had been a full meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party. The Times is an organ which, of course, is suspect, and I have therefore taken the precaution to bring down to your Lordships' House an extract from the true word, the Daily Herald. The Daily Herald makes the same statement that there was a large meeting of the entire Parliamentary Labour Party. I do not know whether words are used in this Government in their ordinary significance. I have sat for something over thirty-five years in your Lordships' House, and that, I think, would constitute me "Parliamentary.'' I have been for something like seven years a member of the Labour Party, which is a period, I think, some six years and eleven months longer than can be claimed by the noble and learned Lord of whom I am asking this Question. And, indeed, as the noble and learned Lord has not replied to Lord Birkenhead's inquiry as to when exactly the conversion took place—whether it was sudden, upon the road to Damascus, or whether it was a gradual process—I do not quite like to fix the date.
§ It has hitherto been usual, in talking of meetings of a Party, to include members of your Lordships' House among the Party. I do not know whether, by administrative action, the present Prime Minister is starting a uni-cameral system of Government, but I am bound to tell your Lordships that I have never been summoned to, and I have never had any official notice of, any meetings of a Parliamentary Labour Party, and it seems to me, therefore, that, if the intention is that your Lordships' House should be excluded from public affairs, it would be better and more in accordance with the proper names that it should be called a Commons Labour Party.138
§ It is said that the chameleon takes its colour from the character of its surroundings. I am not without hope that the noble and learned Lord, particularly if the process of conversion has been of gradual growth, may from the robust Socialists who sit beside him, gradually acquire more and more of their faith, so that before this Government goes out, and before we go back into the cold shades of Opposition, he may be found ranging himself definitely as a member of the Labour Party, which, as I understand, he is not now. I am sure that we shall all hope for that consummation. Put I am not quite sure whether it is the case that we should regard this Government as a Labour Government in the full sense of the word. I think it is perfectly obvious that it has definitely given up, and no doubt very wisely given up for the present, those fundamental differences between the Labour and other Parties—those attacks upon capital, those statements that the capitalist system is a system under which you cannot do anything but tinker with unemployment, statements that have been made throughout the country by nearly all the Labour adherents. It has very properly given this up, and it is represented, perhaps, as a child which, for the best of reasons, is for the moment in swaddling clothes—I am not so sure that it is not a child that has been changed at birth. And I think that, although I shall, of course, give my support to that Party, as I have done in the past, I shall have to keep a wary and suspicious eye upon the noble and learned Lord in order to be sure that he does not depart from the true faith.
§ I do not wish to detain your Lordships, and I do not desire at this happy stage, when the Government is spoken well of by those who ought to speak ill of it, and by those who ought to be afraid of it, to strike any note of discord. I think that the noble and learned Lord will have difficulties enough without any of my creating. Your Lordships will, I am sure, extend all possible indulgence to this Government, but I do not anticipate that too blind an eye will be turned to its faults, even with the hope of recruiting it in the future. I shall, therefore, simply ask the noble and learned Lord if he or some other member of the Government will be so good as to 139 answer the simple Question that I have put on the Paper—namely, does the Parliamentary Labour Party consist only of members of one House?
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD had given Notice to ask His Majesty's Government whether they have formulated a policy concerning the reduction of armaments under Article 8 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, and whether the Lord President is in a position to give any information on the subject. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, it would ill become a very junior member of your Lordships' House like myself to enter into the very interesting and difficult questions which the noble Earl has raised as to the composition of the Party to which he belongs and, indeed, I feel that I owe your Lordships some apology for venturing to make any claim upon your Lordships' attention so soon after I have had the honour of joining this House. I can only hope that none the less you will extend to me that indulgence which you have always shown to the newcomer. I would not have troubled the House upon this Question except for my deep sense of the profound importance which it has. In one of the very last speeches which the late Sir Henry Wilson made I remember his describing the state of Europe as terrifying. There has been, I fully admit, some modification of the conditions since that speech was made; but I rather feel that if the gallant Field-Marshal were able to be now-reviewing the state of Europe he would not see any cause to modify the adjective which he used.
§ The particular point to which I desire to draw your Lordships' attention is the condition of armaments throughout Europe. In 1913, at the period when it was common to describe Europe as an armed camp, there were 3,744,000 armed men in the Armies of Europe. In this last year there were about 100,000 less—3,632,000 I believe is the figure. That appears to mean that there has been a diminution of 100,000 men; but as a matter of fact we must remember that the enemy States have been compelled to reduce their armaments by some 700,000 men. If, therefore, you put them aside for the purposes of comparison, there are in the remainder of Europe 600,000 more armed men than there were in 1913. Moreover, the other great Powers have 140 also on the whole reduced their armaments below the 1913 standard. Our armaments are slightly below that standard in numbers and those of the other great Powers are also below it in numbers. The result is that the increase of armaments is entirely due to the increase of armaments in the smaller Powers. When we remember the origin of the great war, that is a fact which, I think, must be regarded as of some importance.
§ Nor is this by any means all. The Armies that are raised, except those of the ex-enemy Powers and our own Army, are raised by conscription with a very short period of service. That means that in addition to the actual Armies, there are vast reserves being created every day. Beyond that we have to remember the great number of warlike inventions that have been made during the war and improved since the war—the tanks, the bombs, the flame-throwers, the huge cannon, the poison gas ; above all, the immensely increased use of aeroplanes. Their numbers have not only been increased but they have been rendered infinitely more effective, unless my information is altogether wrong. I have seen it stated that a bomb may now be dropped one hundred times more destructive than the largest bomb that was dropped on London during the war. Then, of course, there is the poison gas. I do not know whether any official estimate has been made of the effect of a poison gas attack on a great town; but certainly it does stagger the imagination to conceive of an attack perhaps by several hundreds or, it may even be, by several thousands of aeroplanes sprinkling mustard gas—and I am told there are even worse gases that are now available—on a great town to the weight, it may be, of many tons. I cannot help feeling that the possible effect of operations of that kind has not yet been realised by the public mind.
§ One further point on this aspect of the subject I would like to mention. Our forces have been reduced, and reduced, I believe, to the lowest possible extent Many good judges think that we have, perhaps, gone even further than we ought to go, and that means that, at any rate for some purposes, our influence in Europe may not be as strong as it otherwise would be. Surely it is a matter 141 which everyone ought to consider—whether there is any means by which the proportionate strength of this country and other countries may be, I will not say equalised, but brought nearer together and if, as I certainly think, it would be a grave mistake to increase our forces, whether it is not worth every effort that we can possibly make to induce other countries to reduce their forces to something like the standard that we have adopted.
§ There is another aspect of this question which seems to me also of great importance. These great armaments to which I have ventured to allude exist, in the vast majority of cases if not in every one, not for the purpose of making aggressive attacks on neighbouring countries but solely and entirely in order to achieve security for the owners of the armaments themselves. I forget which of the noble Lords it was who spoke, yesterday who pointed out what a great part security and the desire for security played in the Franco-German problem. That is perfectly true and I shall have a word to say about it in a moment; but it is not a unique case. Wherever you go in Europe there is the same state of things. Everywhere one nation fears and suspects another. I doubt whether it is too much to say that, apart from the League of Nations, fear dominates the whole international situation in Europe.
§ It has been my good fortune to attend the Assembly of the League of Nations at Geneva on more than one occasion, and I can recall several conversations with Ministers, particularly the Ministers of some of the smaller countries, who have explained their great anxiety as to the possible invasion of their country and the dangers which they run; nor is it, of course, at all surprising. Invasion is a terrible and a fearful thing, of which, happily, we have no experience in this country. I am not sure that every one always remembers that within living memory there have been two invasions of France, and that within a much shorter period in some countries there has been almost perpetual fighting on their soil. I hold the view as much as any noble Lord that the chief preoccupation of French statesmen at this moment is the question of the security of their country, not against immediate attack perhaps but lest their children should have to suffer 142 what they and their fathers have suffered. Your Lordships will recollect the very striking phrase used by M. Loucheur about eighteen months ago, when he said that if he had to choose between Reparations and security he would choose security. If only security could be given to Europe the change would be prodigious; I mean such a state of things as exists between Canada and the United States, where the idea of invasion is really unthinkable. If any approach to that state of things could be produced in Europe, nine-tenths of the questions and difficulties of Europe would be at an end.
§ There is one other aspect of this question which is also, it seems to me, rather disquieting, and that is the growth of the principle of small alliances. When I say small alliances I mean group alliances. I have nothing to say against them as alliances, as they stand now. Many of them, I believe, have operated in the direction of peace, but there are a great many of them. There is the Little Entente, the alliances between France and Belgium, between France and Poland, between France and Czechoslovakia, and between Italy and Jugoslavia. All these are growing up for the purposes of defence, because of the feeling of insecurity very largely, but though they are defensive, though at this moment they are peaceful, though in the hands at any rate of some of those who direct them they may be regarded with confidence and approval as buttresses of the cause of peace, yet I cannot help feeling that history has been written indeed in vain if we do not feel that what are perfectly legitimate and admirable arrangements at this present time may easily become something much less admirable in the future.
§ I have sketched very shortly and very imperfectly the kind of problem which it seems to me is presented by this question of disarmament at the present time. What is the remedy? There is, of course, the obvious remedy that we must remove the causes of dispute. The Lord President just now referred to a resolution of the Assembly. I had something to do with it so I remember it. It recommended that we should begin by settling such great questions as the Reparation question and inter-Governmental indebtedness. No one feels more strongly than I do that this is a very important thing to 143 be done, and a great many steps in that direction have been taken of a similar kind.
§ LORD PARMOOR
Perhaps the noble Viscount will recollect it was not only that, but that no disarmament could be possible until there had been produced a better state of mind.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
I have no doubt it is true to say that no considerable reduction of armaments will be possible unless, and until, you get a better state of mind in Europe. But one of the things you have to recollect, and one of the perplexing elements of this problem, is that armaments themselves contribute to the sense of security, and to the difficulty of settling these questions. And as long as armaments exist and grow I do not myself think that it is too much to say that there is no real security for permanent peace. There are some people who believe that gradually armaments will die away if you can get rid of these difficulties. For my part I cannot help feeling that it is extremely doubtful if that will ever happen. I think that the one thing that has tended to diminish armaments has been the want of money, and that as prosperity returns you will have again an increase of armaments. I cannot help feeling that we should never have had a reduction of naval armaments except for the admirable arrangement made at Washington, however much the Powers had desired it.
You will never get a reduction of armaments until you make some definite arrangement, some definite agreement, between the Powers to limit or reduce their armaments, and if you do not do that sooner or later the armaments will again grow and will again cause competition such as we have seen in the past. That, at any rate, was very strongly the opinion of those who framed the Treaty of Versailles and the other Peace Treaties. They thought it of the greatest possible importance that the enemy States should be disarmed. Why? Obviously because they thought it would diminish the chances of attack, and would make the world safer. But they went further than that, and in the preamble to the clauses which they inserted in the Treaties they put these words—In order to render possible the initiation of a general limitation of the 144 armaments of all nations, … undertakes strictly to observe the military, naval, and air clauses which follow.In every way one of the inducements that was held out to the enemy Powers to sign these disarmament clauses was that it was to be the first step in general disarmament, that they were not to be treated as the only countries that ought to diminish their armaments, but that their reduction of armaments was to be the prelude, the example which was to be followed by all the other nations of the world.
And not only so, as the Lord President has pointed out, by Article 8 of the same Treaties, particular and definite provision is made on this point. Article 8 says—The members of the League recognise that the maintenance of peace requires the reduction of national armaments to the lowest point consistent with national safety and the enforcement by common action of international obligations.The Council, taking account of the geographical situation and the circumstances of each State, shall formulate plans for such reduction for the consideration and action of the several Governments.I do not think it is possible to have a more definite statement of international policy, or, as it seems to me, a more definite engagement on the part of those who have adhered to the Covenant of the League of Nations that some plan shall be formulated for the reduction of armaments which the Governments are to consider. It is in reference to that matter that I desire to ask for the opinion and policy of the Government which is now in power. I hope the Lord President will forgive me if I say that I am not very clear as to what the policy of the Government really is on the point. I gathered from the speech of the Prime Minister last night that he certainly does look to the formulation of some general agreement for disarmament, and that that is one of the things towards which his policy is working. I am glad it should be so, but the noble Lord pointedly referred to certain proposals that have been before the League of Nations, and referred to them as my proposals. Strictly speaking, that is not accurate. The proposals that were adopted by the League of Nations were brought forward by a Committee of the League of Nations, and other members of that Committee besides myself had at least as large a share in them as I had.
145 The noble and learned Lord has accurately described the history of the question so far as the League of Nations is concerned. After the acceptance of the Resolutions in 1922 a definite Treaty was drafted and brought before the Assembly of 1923. It has now been referred to the respective Governments. It proceeds on three broad principles. I am not going into the details, but the first principle is that disarmament, to be effective, must be general. Everybody is agreed on that. The second principle is, that it is impossible to expect any Continental State—no one who has talked with any Continental statesman will deny it—acting under the terror of invasion, to agree to any considerable reduction, of armaments unless you give some kind of security or guarantee in exchange; and the proposal is that in exchange for such disarmament there shall be a general guarantee against aggression by any other State. The Treaty is outside, and quite apart from, the League of Nations. The third principle is an attempt to deal with the problem of small alliances, at first defensive but possibly developing into something more serious. The suggestion is that there should be recognition of specially defensive Treaties as part of the system of the Guarantee, providing the Council is satisfied that they are, in terms and in operation, strictly defensive in character. Those are the three principles.
What has been the attitude of the countries? Twenty-five European countries have considered these Resolutions and twenty-one have answered, the great mass of them favourably. Only three have given no reply at all, and this country is one of the three. So far we have said nothing, and it is not going too far to say that in this great and important matter Europe is now waiting for our decision. The noble and learned Lord said that the Government were considering the matter. I am glad to hear that. I trust they will appoint a strong Committee to inquire into it without delay and to arrive at some conclusion or advise the Government upon it. It would not be reasonable to ask for an immediate decision. I do, however, ask that the matter shall not be laid aside, but pressed forward. The vast importance of the question is the reason I venture to press this upon them. The problems of Franco-German relations, the problems of group 146 alliances, the problem of securities and the return of prosperity, are all involved in this question of disarmament.
I believe that the plan which has been worked out in the League of Nations is on the right lines, but if it is not the right plan I submit respectfully that you cannot leave it there and merely say that "this plan will not do." In view of your Treaty obligations and the tremendous urgency of the question, in view of the dangers that threaten us, you must have some plan, some policy, for dealing with this question. The prize is enormous. If we succeed it will really be the greatest step that can be taken towards the permanent peace of the world. I shall be told that this is idealism. I am not afraid of the charge of idealism. I do not believe that any individual or any Party will ever secure the confidence of this country without idealism. The British nation is the most idealistic nation in the world, and over and over again it has sacrificed what appeared to be its immediate interest in the pursuit of an ideal. I was talking the other day to a foreign friend on these subjects and he said to me, with the usual elaborate politeness of the Continental manner, that whoever represented Great Britain at the Assembly or at the Council will always be listened to with the greatest possible attention and respect, and in accounting for this he said that it is not because we are less egotistical than other nations but because ours is a larger egotism. I believe there is a very profound truth in that statement. It is true that in the pursuit, the genuine pursuit, of idealistic aims we have often achieved great material advantages and prosperity. Idealism is essential to British policy. That is just as true as to say that peace is the greatest of British interests.
§ LORD PARMOOR
My Lords, before I move the adjournment of the House, may I make a statement with regard to public business in reply to the Question put to me yesterday by the noble Marquess opposite? There is no public business down for to-morrow, but we shall have to meet then in the ordinary course, and Notices have been put down for various days extending over next week. The Secretary of State for India, too, is going to put down a Notice for next Tuesday, 147 to the effect that he will make a statement on Indian affairs. There are reasons why he wishes to make a statement.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
Can the noble and learned Lord give me any reply to the suggestion of a Committee?
And will the noble and learned Lord say whether he proposes to make any reply to my Question ?
§ LORD PARMOOR
I can only speak, of course, by the indulgence of the House. What the noble Viscount has said in reference to the formation of a strong Committee will be brought to the immediate attention of the authorities, and I am perfectly certain that great weight will be attached to the views he has expressed. That ought to be so. Having regard to the work he has done there is no one in this country whose opinion is entitled to greater weight. He will not expect me to go further than that at the present moment. The reason why I could not answer the noble Earl is that he claimed rather to intervene in the debate after I had spoken than to ask a Question in the ordinary way, but if your Lordships will allow me I will read out the answer that I was prepared to give him. I do not want to make any comment upon it. It was supplied to me from sources which I have no doubt the noble Earl will know very well.
§ LORD PARMOOR
The answer is as follows: The expression "Parliamentary Labour Party" has been in use for a number of years and obviously designates that school of political thought known as "Labour." I am sure that this answer will carry conviction to the mind of the noble Earl.
I think it right to say that the answer to my Question is so meaningless that I shall have to put the Question down again.
§ THE EARL OF BALFOUR
I do not know whether the noble Earl who asked this Question was satisfied with the answer—
§ THE EARL OF BALFOUR
The answer is:The expression "Parliamentary Labour Party" has been in use for a number of yeans and obviously designates that school of political thought known as "LabourI have had, I believe, as great an experience and practice as any member in listening to and giving Parliamentary answers, not indeed in this House but in another place, where Questions are more frequently put and, when put, are pursued with more ardour than among your Lordships—
§ THE EARL OF BALFOUR
But this answer surely surpasses anything that bas ever been given in the way of an answer by substituting a tautology for a reply. And is not it characteristic of all that we have heard in the course of yesterday's debate and to-day's debate? I was on(c) of those, in common, I believe, with a great majority of my countrymen, who imagined that the Labour Party or Socialist Party, who had made no secret of their convictions during the Election, who had uttered those convictions with great vigour, would, when they came into the responsibilities of office, be able to tell us how they proposed to carry those convictions into practical effect. We have been at once surprised and gratified to learn that they have no intention, so far as I understand it, of carrying any of these convictions into practical effect. I listened to the speech of the noble Viscount on the Woolsack yesterday, I listened to the speech of the Lord President of the Council this afternoon, and I heard from them the accustomed lamentations over the difficulties in which we all find ourselves, the difficulties of unemployment, the difficulties of housing, the difficulties of foreign affairs. They used the old familiar phrases with, I thought, rather less point than I have sometimes heard accompany their use, but still in very much the same tones of earnest conviction which every Party in the State and every member of every Party in the State on every platform in the country has been using, not for weeks but for months past.
I make no complaint of that. It is at all events something that we should be in agreement as to what are the evils that have to be remedied. That we should all agree as to what these evils are is surely 149 to the good. But what I was waiting for, what I believe most of your Lordships were waiting for, was some account of how they were to be remedied and how the particular kind of remedy proposed by the Socialist Party was connected with those principles of Socialism which it was understood they came in to develop. I do not know whether I am exceptional, but I was amazed not only at what was not said by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack and by the President of the Council, but at what was said by the latter and by the First Lord of the Admiralty. They gave, with, I think, admirable directness, clearness and simplicity, an answer to the very pertinent questions put yesterday by my noble friend Lord Birkenhead. And what was the substance of the answers which they gave? The substance of the answers which they gave was that they were in perfect harmony with the policy of the Prime Minister, and that as soon as they ceased to be in harmony with the policy of the Prime Minister they would cease to be members of his Government. But then, where do these special principles come in of which we have heard so much? The First Lord of the Admiralty appears to have had a long and interesting conversation with the Prime Minister, to have gone over all the point" of policy which, so far as human foresight goes, were likely to come up for discussion in the Cabinet and in the House, and he appears to have been in perfect agreement. I also understood—I admit rather by implication and inference than from the direct statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty—that he had not: altered his political views since those not very distant days when he enlightened the voters of Dorsetshire and gave them guidance as to the political course which they ought to pursue.
I suppose, therefore, that I am to infer that, so far as the immediate future is concerned, there is no difference whatever between the Socialist head of the Government and the Conservative Ministers who are giving him, on the highest grounds, their moral and intellectual support. I think that is a most interesting and a most extraordinary constitutional development. It may be a great improvement, but I think the noble Lords themselves will admit that it is a very singular change, and I am not in the least surprised that the noble Earl who asked 150 the Question to which, by the courtesy of the noble Lord opposite, I have just read out the remarkable answer—the noble Earl who is apparently the one Socialistic member of the Socialist Party who adorns this House—I am not at all surprised, I say, that ho listened with some amazement to the Conservative friends who are carrying out in the present Government work which he very naturally supposes that he is by his opinions more qualified to undertake.
I think that the result of these debates is really most interesting. I do not wish to develop what might almost seem a personal question beyond proper limits, and other noble Lords have referred to it, but before I sit down might I make two very brief observations upon the details of the speech of the noble Lords opposite? Of details, indeed, we have had very little in this debate. We have been told that it is very desirable to have houses: we have not been told how we are to get them. We have been told that it is very desirable to stop unemployment: we have not been told how unemployment is going to be stopped. We wait; and it would be unreasonable to complain of that reticence on the part of the Government if they gave us to understand, or had given us to understand, that they really had a remedy for the evils which have so embarrassed their predecessors—some answer to the questions which have been asked, and hitherto have been asked in vain. Nevertheless, we possess our souls in patience, and when the remedies are brought forward in detail I have no doubt we shall have an opportunity of discussing them.
There are two points however, dealing with details, upon which I might remark. One was a practice which is absolutely new to me, and which I hope will not be followed in future. The noble and learned Lord who answers for the Foreign Office in this House, by the way, did mention one reform, and it is the only reform which, as I understand, has been carried out or clearly formulated by the Government. That reform is that the noble Lord has been supplied with a room at the Foreign Office. It is a gratifying piece of intelligence, but one which I do not think has any vital connection with the grave problems which lie before His Majesty's Government. As, however, the noble and learned Lord has been given this room in the Foreign Office, and 151 as he is going to see henceforth all the Foreign Office papers, and to answer all the Foreign Office questions in this House, I hope he will never again do what he did to-night, which is to mention the name of a permanent official and quote his views. It really is a violation of Constitutional practice, which I think is so serious that, although I have no doubt it was due to inadvertence, I do not think it should be passed without some comment before the debate is brought to a close.
Another small matter, not unworthy of your Lordships' attention, to which I would refer, is on the Russian part of the noble and learned Lord's speech. He does not, I think, quite apprehend the difficulties' which may lie before him, or the fears which the Russian policy of the Government have aroused in some breasts. He quite agrees that it is absolutely incompatible with sound relations between this country and Russia that Russia should indulge in propaganda and in action for the destruction of our institutions, instead of striving to reform her own. The point is this. We are all agreed about that, but why is the noble Lord so confident that, by merely coming to a formal arrangement embodying that principle, he will secure the carrying of it into effect? May I remind him that most explicit assurances were given by the Russian Government in connection with the Trade Agreement on that very point, and that immediately, when the ink was hardly dry upon that Agreement, they proceeded to carry out the most intensive, and as we think most unscrupulous, propaganda for the purpose of subverting the institutions of countries other than their own.
§ THE EARL OF BALFOUR
It was not a sporadic effort, but it has been their steady policy in practice and their constantly reiterated policy in theory, and it is not unnatural that we should entertain some misgivings that a Government which has deliberately broken its word on that very subject in previous agreements should suddenly have changed its heart as well as its policy—that we should not look forward with any confidence in the future to their doing that which they say is contrary to the whole spirit of 152 their institutions, and which they have never attempted to carry out in the months and years of the past.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
My Lords, the rules of debate in this House are proverbially lax, but I doubt whether we have ever before departed so far from the usual course. The Government yesterday made a statement of policy. Questions were put to them, so far-reaching and urgent that the noble and learned Lord, the Lord President of the Council, asked special leave to adjourn the debate until to-day, in order that he might prepare a sufficient answer to the Questions. He then, as I understood, wound up for the Government the discussion upon that point. The House then proceeded to listen to Earl Russell, who asked a Question on a totally different subject. He received no answer, and I understand that the defence which is being made by the noble and learned Lord, the Lord President, is that he had no right to intervene again in the discussion. But I understood that these were separate Notices upon the Paper, and therefore there is every reason why, had he wished to do so, he could have given a complete answer to the noble Earl who sits alone on the seats behind the Government. Then we had a most valuable contribution from the noble Viscount (Lord Cecil)—to whom we always listen on this particular subject with attention—which I think was also worthy of a more detailed answer than the noble Viscount received from the Lord President.
It is customary in this House, when a noble Lord puts down a Question on the Paper, for a full answer to be given by the Government, which should attempt at any rate to deal with the Question that has been raised. I confess that this new view, that the noble and learned Lord, the Lord President, is unable to intervene again in the course of the discussion this evening, is an unfortunate one for the future, because there are not many members of the House probably who will be prepared to support the action of the Government, and if they are only to speak once in the course of the evening it will be very difficult for them to carry out their duties. For my own part I regret the fact that the Lord President terminated the discussion on the policy of the Government so soon.
153 I also have found a great reform which has been carried out by the Government, and which has not yet been mentioned. The noble Earl, Lord Balfour, mentioned the provision of a room in the Foreign Office for the Lord President. The newspapers have told us for three weeks of the arduous days and nights worked by every member of the Government. His Majesty's Cabinet went early to their offices and stayed there till late at night, although I doubt if they ever worked longer hours than did the noble Marquess, Lord Curzon. Then, at the end of several days, at last one great reform was announced—the clothes which they were to wear at State functions were to be different from those worn by their predecessors. Whether they are to be congratulated upon having substituted a far more ugly costume I will not venture to enquire.
I regret the fact that the debate has been cut short for another reason—namely, that it prevents me from giving an answer to a question put to us by Lord Birkenhead on the Question of the Poplar Order. He directly challenged us on this Bench, and as I have been led astray by so admirable a leader as Lord Balfour, perhaps I may say, in answer to Lord Birkenhead, quite briefly, in regard to the action of the Poplar Guardians, that in so far as it is intended to be, and is, an attempt to break down the system of local government in London, we are entirely and heartily opposed to it. But what is quite a separate question, and about which we ought to have more information in this House, is the action of the Minister of Health in rescinding the Mond Order. We want more information before coming to a definite decision. If noble Lords opposite are not prepared to put down a Question on the matter soon, perhaps they will allow us to do so, and when it is raised I hope we shall get a great deal more than the formal unsatisfactory answers which we have received from the Lord President in reply to the two Questions on the Paper to-day.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, only by the indulgence of the House can I intervene for a moment, and I intervene; only to answer three specific questions which have been put. The first is about Poplar. I think it would be desirable that somebody should put down a Question on 154 which we can discuss the Poplar question. It has been very much misunderstood. We are full of information about it, and we shall be very glad to impart it if the House will be so kind as to listen. The second Question came from the noble Earl, who rather complains of the generalities of the statement made, and somewhat reproached us with not putting them in specific form and giving details. I can promise the noble Earl that there are plenty of Bills in preparation and on their way here, and that he will have the pleasure of discussing them. Some of them are in an advanced stage, and a great deal of work has been expended upon them. But, after all, this Government has only been born for a little over three weeks, and it is too early to expect demonstrations which ought to come at a later stage.
The only remaining point was one made by my noble friend Lord Russell, it is quite true that there is a well-known organisation called the Parliamentary Labour Party. I think it took its name from a date when Labour did not appeal' so likely to commend itself to the country as appears to be the case to-day. Anyway, there it is, a fine old institution, and I condole with my noble friend in this, that, just as he was not invited to the meeting, no more was I. We stand in the same case.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I used to be said to be in this House. But these are really theoretical inquiries, which I should like to discuss at a little greater length with my noble friend. However, we are not alone in our disappointments in not being noticed as much as we would wish. I have read in the papers of murmurs because noble Lords in this House had been excluded from meetings of the Conservative Party at the Carlton Club. I have even heard murmurs of people not being invited to Reform Club meetings. Therefore we are not alone, and the noble Earl and I may endure our pains in silence, and not think ourselves worse treated because we have not been invited to everything that was going.
§ House adjourned at five minutes before six o'clock.