§ The King's Speech reported by the LORD CHANCELLOR.
§ LORD DARYNGTON
My Lords, I rise to move that an humble Address be presented to His Majesty in reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne. I appreciate very much being invited to undertake this duty to-day and would ask noble Lords to be kind enough to give me that indulgence which is so generously extended on all occasions to those who address your Lordships' House for the first time. I had the privilege of occupying a somewhat similar position nearly a quarter of a century ago in the House of Commons, after a rather unfortunate week during the Boer War, and I realise the difficulty of undertaking this task, especially as it is necessary to be uncontroversial in regard to all matters.
In the first paragraph of the gracious Speech from the Throne we note that progress has been made in the solution of questions which have hitherto blocked the pathway to mutual understanding, and retarded the recovery of the world. When we look around the world to-day, and see the difficulties and dangers in the pathway of all nations, we realise the absolute necessity of every man trying to the utmost of his ability to help statesmen of the western world who are faced by so difficult a task. I think that what we really require is more reality in our religion, and a very strenuous endeavour on the part of every member and every class of the community to try so far as possible to reduce the passions and prejudices of the people of the world. My noble friend who sits beside me 11 [Lord Kylsant] will deal with the questions of foreign affairs that are mentioned in the gracious Speech. Perhaps I might be permitted to say here that when I first aspired to become a Member of Parliament my noble friend on my right was my opponent. He belongs to a family, as I do, that does not claim any immunity from the charge of lazy political uniformity.
I would like, in the first instance, if I may, to deal with the Imperial Conference. All those who noted the magnificent reception which the representatives of our Dominions received in this country will realise the importance of that Conference. And those who attended it, when they left these shores, must have had an abiding sense of the strength of the link which binds them to us, a belief in the utility of the Conference from the Imperial point of view, and a belief in our desire not only to entertain them but to understand their difficulties, as well as a desire to increase in every possible way the prosperity and happiness of those peoples whom they so worthily represent.
The discussions at the Imperial Economic Conference covered a wide field, including the following particular points:—Overseas Settlement within the Empire, co-operation in financial assistance to Imperial development, Imperial Preference, and a number of miscellaneous questions, some of which are of great importance, and which fall generally under the head of steps for the improvement of mutual trade between the countries of the Empire.
With regard to the tariff preference paragraph I should like to quote from the Report—This Imperial Economic Conference, holding that, especially in present circumstances, all possible means should be taken to develop the resources of the Empire and trade between the Empire countries, desires to re-affirm the Resolution on the subject of Imperial Preference passed by the Imperial War Conference of 1917.That Resolution read as follows:The time has arrived when all possible encouragement should be given to the development of Imperial resources, and especially to making the Empire independent of other countries in respect of food supplies, raw materials, and essential industries. With these objects in view, the Conference expresses itself in favour of:—Your Lordships will remember the speech delivered by His Majesty the King when Prince of Wales at the Guildhall, in 1001, on his return from the Dominions after a reception greater perhaps than any given to any man in the Colonies. In that speech he referred to the extraordinary possibilities for colonisation. He said that the old country must "wake up." He referred to the extraordinary amount of virgin soil in the Dominions and to the possibilities in regard to mineral supplies, and hoped that this country would realise the necessity of sending suitable emigrants in order to show the attachment of the motherland to her children. As one who is connected with the Church Army and has seen something of the need for emigration, I suggest that there is an absolute necessity of concentrating upon a real and satisfactory form of emigration. His Majesty's Government has done a great deal already in this direction.
- (1) The principle that each part of the Empire, having due regard to the interests
12 of our Allies, shall give specially favourable treatment and facilities to the produce and manufactures of other parts of the Empire.
- (2) Arrangements by which intending emigrants from the United Kingdom may be induced to settle in countries under the British flag."
Other important recommendations of the Imperial Conference are those relating to co-operation for technical research and information, an Imperial policy with regard to forestry and Imperial communications. I express the opinion very humbly that it must be the duty of any Government to give effect to those Resolutions. If not, it is possible that in the years to come the representatives of these great Dominions may think that the sacrifice involved in travelling so many thousands of miles is not justified.
The gracious Speech refers to the question of the League of Nations. I am sure that this House will feel much satisfaction at the fact that there has been a real growth in character and active administration by the League of Nations. It will welcome, to-morrow, one who has done more than anyone else in the world to make that League a living reality. It is the duty of all men to put aside all preconceived prejudices and work wholeheartedly for the objects of the League. There are some men who think 13 it is only a dream, but we believe that if it is carried into effect it may be the means of preventing the indescribable calamities of war and of promoting the priceless blessings of peace.
Your Lordships will be glad to note that unemployment is decreasing in this country. Almost week by week we see a reduction in the number of those who are unemployed. The action of the Government in regard to this long-continued problem is right; I think they have taken the line of common sense. They have stimulated to a great extent normal trade by the anticipation of Government contracts, and have helped by trade facilities and export schemes and by the grant of interest and sinking fund on loans raised by local authorities. We all welcome the action of the Minister of Transport in regard to the question of roads. Altogether the amount of money which has recently been spent, apart from Unemployment Insurance funds, amounts to the large sum of £100,000,000 in terms of worth of work, and yet this difficulty is still with us. With all this effort we still have terrible unemployment in the country. There is no man in this House who does not realise the hardness of the lot of one who is unemployed, who walks about seeking that work which never comes. Only those whose eyes are blinded, whose hearts are hardened, can contemplate serenely the position in which such a man is placed. Your Lordships will excuse me one personal note, but I have had some real experience in regard to this problem as I have interviewed a large number of men who have sought refuge in the Church Army homes. In almost every case the man was not depraved or dissipated, but really anxious, so far as we could gather, to obtain work for which he was well qualified. I trust that means may be found to deal in some way with this absorbing difficulty.
In the gracious Speech a statement is made that steps will be taken to develop juvenile unemployment centres and to provide increased facilities for general and technical education. Whatever our sympathies may be for the older men, they go out in much greater degree to those young men who have never learned to work, who, owing to the stress and' strain of the war, will possibly never be able to find work for which they are 14 suited, some because of the fact that today there is no opportunity for apprentice work and some because of other causes. There is no greater need to-day than to find some way by which these young; men can get on to the ladder of industrial life. They are in this position through no fault of their own, and anything that can be done, apart altogether from Party, will be received by this House with acclamation. My noble friend will deal with many of the other points mentioned in the Speech, but, in conclusion, let, me say one word in regard to the necessity of every one doing all he can in order to find some way out of these difficulties. President Roosevelt, the great representative of a nation whose interests are inextricably bound up with our own, once said:''A love of ignoble ease, a love of pence, which springs surely I from lack of a desire to have to bear the straining after great things, is as little worthy of a nation as of an individual.Your Lordships' House and every class in the community, should realise day by day what your duty is as far as you can ; and those who are paid should give a full day's work for a full day s remuneration.
I note with great surprise that there has recently been a tendency in the Press to disparage the British Empire and to pretend that we are no longer in the position which we once held among the nations of the world. If this were true it would hardly be possible to render a greater disservice to this country, and I believe that such a policy is fundamentally unsound. But when we look around the world and travel among other nations, or when we meet travellers and diplomats, we find that such a statement is absolutely untrue, and that in spite of the great sacrifices which we made and the difficulties with which we have contended, the prestige of the British nation is as high as or higher in the world than ever in our history. Other nations wish to know what we are thinking, and some of those who disparage the British Empire are just those who are unwilling to grant that amount of material defence which is necessary to a country with such world wide responsibilities as burs. I thank your Lordships very much for the kindness and friendly forbearance with which you 15 have listened to my remarks, and I beg to move the Motion which stands in my name.
§ Moved, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty as followeth—
§ "Most Gracious Sovereign,—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—(Lord Daryngton.)
§ LORD KYLSANT
My Lords, after the able manner in which the noble Lord has proposed that a loyal Address be presented to His Majesty, it is with some diffidence that I rise to second the Motion. Everybody will welcome the reference in His Majesty's gracious Speech to the good relations now existing between His Majesty's Government and all foreign Powers. There is no greater need in the world to-day than assured peace, in order that the nations may recover from the devastating effects of the great war. In particular, the people of this country will receive with pleasure the announcement in regard to Reparations, and will be glad to hear that two Committees upon which Great Britain is represented by men of such eminence and capacity as Mr. Reginald McKenna, Sir Robert Kindersley and Sir Josiah Stamp have been appointed to deal with this matter. Any report approved by them will be accepted as strictly impartial and as tending to clear the way for a definite solution of this long protracted problem.
It is also a source of gratification that the last of the peace Treaties—namely, the Treaty with Turkey—has been concluded. The fact that the difficult and complex negotiations have resulted in the conclusion of that which in all the circumstances may be considered a very satisfactory Treaty is due to the patience and diplomatic skill of the noble Marquess, Lord Curzon, and constitutes a further debt of gratitude which the nation owes to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. The conclusion of this Treaty has undoubtedly increased to a great extent the prestige of Great Britain in the Near East. The agreement with the Powers principally concerned in con- 16 nection with the status of the Tangier zone is also specially noteworthy as settling a long outstanding question which might easily, at some later date, have become a source of discord.
Turning to home affairs, it is gratifying to learn from His Majesty's Speech that the position in regard to unemployment has somewhat improved, and that it is proposed to continue and develop the schemes at present in operation. The orders for eight new cruisers, which I understand are about to be placed, should materially assist to relieve the situation so far as shipbuilding and allied industries are concerned. Unfortunately, about a million persons are existing on doles, and British working men do not want doles, but work. As was usually the case in this country forty years or more ago, I personally was brought up in the old Free Trade school and was taught that Free Trade between all the nations of the world was the only sure means of securing general prosperity. The principles which I then learnt are, I believe, equally true to-day, but unfortunately no foreign nation is willing to act on the principle of admitting free imports of manufactured or partly manufactured goods. Even our Dominions have decided—and they have every right so to decide—that it is in their respective interests to erect tariff barriers against the free importation of manufactured or partly manufactured commodities. These tariff barriers, both in foreign countries and in the British Dominions, have been steadily rising since the end of the great war, and this country has consequently been brought face to face with a commercial situation which it has never previously had to meet in so acute a form. We have to contend with unfair and unequal competition, which is aggravated by the advantage which foreign countries receive from their depreciated exchanges, and I still hope that some way may be found of effectively dealing with this grave situation.
This country has been confronted with a period of severe and protracted depression in industry and commerce unparalleled in its history. Indications exist, however, that the low-water level has been reached and that the tide of industry is beginning slowly but surely to turn. The great need of the present time is peace abroad and confidence at home. In order that trade activity may steadily 17 revive, bringing with it progress and prosperity to all concerned, it is absolutely necessary that confidence, which is the basis of commercial life, should be assured. It is also essential that every man, whether employer or employed, should individually do his utmost to co-operate in stimulating British trade. Everybody will be pleased to observe in His Majesty's Speech the reference to the progress made in the all-important matter of housing and to learn that every effort is being made to provide ample housing for the people. The facilities to be made available for assisting people to secure the ownership of their own houses constitute one of the most hopeful developments of our time.
It is a matter for gratification that in the sphere of home defence provision is to be made for strengthening the Royal Air Force, in which members of this House take such keen interest. The country is anxious that in this arm of the Services we should achieve a position which will secure and maintain the national safety.
As one personally interested in farming, I am glad to notice in the King's Speech special reference to the position of agriculture, and to know that active steps are to be taken to deal with the very grave situation which exists to-day in this; primary industry. When the great war broke out the British nation was deeply stirred by the realisation, perhaps for the first time, of the extent to which we had become dependent upon foreign countries for the supply of the necessaries of life. It was felt at that time that every effort should be made largely to increase home food production. Notwithstanding, the acreage under the plough is still steadily declining, and the nation is more than ever dependent on food from abroad. The people of this country will therefore welcome the announcement that it is intended to invite the co-operation of those interested in agriculture, and the various political Parties, to evolve a scheme for placing agriculture upon a sound basis, so as to secure a reasonable return to the farmer for his outlay and industry, and a regular and satisfactory wage to the farm worker.
The noble Lord who moved the adoption of the Address has already spoken about the Imperial and Economic Conferences, and I am aware that it is not customary for the seconder to travel over the same 18 ground; but, as one whose daily work as a shipowner brings him into close touch with nearly all parts of the British Empire, I hope you will allow me to make a passing reference to this important subject. Every one who has the progress and welfare of the British Empire at heart will rejoice at the statement in the King's Speech that it is proposed to give effect to the conclusions reached at the recent great Conference of Dominion Premiers and statesmen. I am convinced that the development of the enormous potential resources of the British Empire could, and should, be stimulated and encouraged to the mutual advantage of all concerned. This would not only result in a big increase in inter-Imperial trade, but would also enable a large number of people from this country, who are unable to secure suitable openings for work in this country, to migrate to the Dominions, where they would be valuable additions to the wealth of those great countries, which always welcome settlers of the right type.
To every one in the great Commonwealth of Nations under the British Flag the King-Emperor stands as a symbol of Imperial unity, and as the link which binds together all the scattered peoples of the British Empire in one confederation of loyalty and devotion to the Throne. His Majesty's keen personal interest in all parts of the Empire, and in the welfare of all its widely-differing peoples, has been vividly shown on innumerable occasions, and is once more manifested in the forthcoming visit of H.R.H. the Prince of Wales to the Great Union of South Africa. His Royal Highness has been deservedly called, by reason of his tour of other Dominions, the "Ambassador of Empire," and this visit will further strengthen the loyal affection of the people of South Africa for His Majesty's House. I beg to second the Resolution.
§ VISCOUNT GREY OF FALLODON
My Lords, I would like to congratulate the mover and the seconder of the Motion on the efficient and agreeable manner in which they have performed the duties entrusted to them. I especially was glad to hear from the mover of the Address his obviously whole-hearted and hopeful reference to the League of Nations, and also his unmistakably sincere and sympathetic reference to the question of 19 unemployment and the hardships connected therewith. I should like to recall to him one incident. He referred to his own entry into Parliament nearly twenty-five years ago. I was then an ex-Under-Secretary, and ex-Under-Secretaries were particularly in demand at by-elections, and I went to Darlington by request of the authorities of my Party, and endeavoured to prevent the candidate who is now the noble Lord from getting into the House of Commons. I was not successful. I dare say he has forgotten it, but I remember the incident because directly afterwards a member of his family, a very valuable and intimate friend of my own, reproached me, saying that he thought I might have found some better use for my oratory than that of opposing a member of the, Pease family, among whom I had so many friends. I should like, as an amende for this act of very long ago, to welcome the noble Lord to this House and to congratulate him upon his maiden speech, and also upon his career in the House of Commons, in which he had not only the attachment of his own Party but the respect and esteem of those who sat on the other side of the House.
As to the noble Lord who seconded the Address, we used to find ourselves in the same Lobby in the other House. There was no mistaking the fact, because whenever the noble Lord was in the Lobby, I was always conscious of his presence, and I welcomed it, and I had hoped that the political friendship would have continued. I cannot say that I heard from him any explanation, to-night, as to why it is we are now on opposite sides of the House. I will not go into the fiscal question, upon which he enlarged, because it is so dangerous to touch that question, and if one attempts to do it shortly it so soon opens out into a debate. But, apart from that, I agreed with the greater part of what the noble Lord said, and I would like to join in recognition of the important part which the noble Lord has played, and still plays, in one of our greatest industries, that of shipping, and to recognise that it is as a great public service that men like himself who are closely connected with the great industries of this country should also give some of their time and ability to the practical work of politics.
There is one point in the Speech from the Throne which seems to me the most 20 remarkable thing in it, although neither the mover nor seconder referred to it. That is, so far as my recollection goes, the unprecedented, abnormal, and extraordinary length of the Speech. It contains a programme for a Parliament rather than for a Session. I could almost think that when this Speech was drawn up the idea was that the Septennial Act was still in force, and that a programme was being provided for a longer time than the present shorter Parliaments can have. I do not know whether the noble Marquess opposite [the Marquess Curzon of Kedleston] can explain to us when he replies how it is that the Speech docs come to be of such great length.
I cannot attempt to go into the whole of the Speech, but I will take some of the paragraphs relating to foreign affairs first. I entirely recognise the justice of the second paragraph of the Speech, which refers to the two Committees established under the Reparation Commission. That is the first ray of light we have had on this very dark question of Reparation for a long time. It is a real step forward, especially with the participation of the United States. I know that these Committees are limited in their scope, but the Reparation question is so intricate, every part of it is so bound up with every other part, that it is almost impossible that an inquiry should take place into one part of it without opening up the larger issues involved.
It is a great advantage that the United States is participating in those Committees. But I would observe, on that point, that the United States is participating because those Committees were set up with the co-operation and agreement of the Allies. It is another instance of the truth that no progress can be made in European affairs unless the Allies, and particularly the British and French Governments, are co-operating. I have said that constantly, and emphasised how essential it is that there should be that co-operation, and I have been constantly criticised for doing so by those who disapprove of the present French policy, more particularly with regard to the-Ruhr. I feel about those people, who make attacks whenever co-operation with France is emphasised, that they really belong to that class of people who, when there are disagreeable facts, think that they can alter those disagreeable facts by 21 attacking the person who states them. The facts remain, and these two Committees emphasise the fact that without Anglo-French co-operation you cannot make progress. To talk about American participation in European affairs unless that comes as the result of a unanimous request from the Allies is really waste of breath. That is one of the cardinal facts of the situation, and one of the satisfactory facts with regard to those Committees.
But, though Anglo-French co-operation remains as desirable and as essential as ever, I am bound to say that I regard with great apprehension what seems to me the growing difficulty of that cooperation caused by the different views of the Ruhr policy taken by the French Government and His Majesty's Government. And I do not see that that difficulty is getting less. I am not reproaching His Majesty's Government with taking the view which they have taken; it is the view which this country generally takes, that the French policy with regard to the Ruhr and the kindred questions connected therewith is a policy which, we believe, cannot but lead to disastrous results.
I should like to ask the noble Marquess with regard to that whether he can throw any light on, or give us any information about, the inquiry which we read of in the newspapers with regard to the Separatist movement in the Palatinate. The aspects of the Separatist movement have been most distressing to those of us who are most anxious for co-operation with the French Government. Officially, I understand, the French attitude is that their authorities are absolutely neutral between the different parts of the population, and that the Separatist movement is a spontaneous and genuine movement. Then there come Press reports, apparently genuine reports from independent persons, that the French authorities on the spot have favoured the Separatist movement; that the Separatists are a minority of the population; that they are armed, while the rest of the population is not armed; that they are some of the most undesirable elements in the population; and that some of the German police who resist them, and who apparently act in accordance with the wishes of the majority of the native population, receive heavy 22 sentences. That is a policy which makes co-operation between the two Governments impossible, because it must lead to most serious and, as I think, eventually disastrous consequences in Europe. It really means that if there is a Separatist movement—not a genuine one, but a false one—which ends in the separation from Germany of these districts of German population, against the will of the vast majority of the inhabitants, we are going to have in Europe in future an Alsace-Lorraine question poisoning the whole atmosphere of foreign polities, on a larger scale, and worse, than the question of Alsace-Lorraine was for so many years. I hope the noble Marquess will tell us what exactly is being done about that inquiry, and what exactly are our relations with the French Government with regard to this policy of separation.
Although I have agreed with the sanguine note of the paragraph relating to the new Committees, I must say that, with regard to the European situation generally, I cannot take a sanguine view. It seems to me that the European situation is drifting—if it continues in the same direction, drifting towards eventual catastrophe. What is going on? In Germany, of course, the seeds for a future recanche are being sown in a most fertile soil: Russia a pariah outside pursuing a wrecking policy: the three countries of the Little Entente and Poland all arming—naturally arming while this state of things continues, and arming obviously to make a solid armed block with France. That means drifting towards the old state of things which preceded the last war. And what is the cause of it ? The cause of it, of course, is fear. France is all-powerful for the moment, but looking forward to the future with fear, or, at any rate, apprehension, and for that reason taking all these precautions with regard to her own armaments and encouraging the armament of the countries closely associated with her.
And that comes from the fact that the peace made in 1919 really miscarried. That peace consisted of the Franco-British and Franco-American Treaties As I understand, France asked for the left bank of the Rhine. The President of the United States said that was asking for territory inhabited by an alien population, and 23 he induced France to abate that demand for the left bank of the Rhine, and offered her instead the Franco-American Treaty, while we joined in offering the Franco-British Treaty. And that was the peace. The American Treaty fell through; our Treaty fell through. America, who was really the pivot of the peace, withdrew from and never ratified the Versailles Treaty, and the result was that the peace which was made in 1919 ceased to exist. And what France has been doing, and not unnaturally doing, since has been trying to make the Versailles Treaty do the work of the Anglo-French and Franco-American Treaties which have disappeared. Of course, that means that the Versailles Treaty has been strained in doing it, and, as I think, France, by pursuing that policy of trying to make up by forcible occupation of German territory for the disappearance of those two treaties of guarantee, will never in the long run achieve her own security.
One of the great lessons of the past which the war and the events before the war have taught us is that building up great armaments does not lead to security. Great armaments lead to counter-armaments, and they lead to a state of things in which there is not a sense of security, but fear all round. Fear breeds distrust and suspicion, and distrust and suspicion breed future wars. In what direction can real security be looked for? I believe it can be looked for only in one way. We are travelling now on the old road over which Europe travelled before the last great war. If we go on we shall come to the same lamentable result. We must travel a new road, and that new road—the only one that I can see—is that you should get every European country to sign the. Covenant of the League of Nations; that you should have an understanding that the forces of different countries will be used not for separate quarrels, but to uphold the Covenant of the League, separate quarrels to be dealt with through the machinery of the League, and force to be used to uphold the Covenant of the League against any one who breaks it.
Of course, it will take years to build up the sense of security in that way; but if only a real, consistent League of Nations policy had been pursued in the last five years instead of being sometimes fitfully 24 adopted and then, it seems to me, dropped, we should have made some progress already. If any one sees a better way by all means let him develop it; but I see Europe now going the old way along which it was going before the war. All the seeds of future war are being sown, and I am sure that only by building up a steady policy of confidence in Europe that the League of Nations—which is only an instrument, but an effective instrument—if used, will be used by the Governments who have signed the Covenant to settle their disputes, is real security to be found. After ten years or so, when every quarrel which arose had been referred to the League of Nations and it had become clear that if quarrels were not referred to the League of Nations force would be used to uphold the Covenant, you would have a real sense of security growing up. In no other way can I see a real hope for the future.
I pass from the general situation to deal with one or two separate paragraphs in the most gracious Speech. I have not examined the Tangier Agreement carefully; but Tangier has for so long been a deadlock and impediment to trade and an unsettlement in our relations with other Powers that I am very glad that an agreement has been reached. As regards the Lausanne Treaty I observe that a Bill has to come before Parliament before the Treaty is ratified. We have plenty of other things to discuss at the moment and, therefore, I will reserve any observations upon that, as it is bound to come before Parliament separately, until the Bill is brought before Parliament and the Treaty can be discussed.
In reference to the agreement with the United States about smuggling, I am delighted to hear that we are on the eve of concluding an agreement, for two reasons. The first is that we have all felt that the rum-running on the coast of the United States was something of which the Empire could not feel proud and that it was very desirable that it should come to an end. My other reason is that I believe in a separate agreement with the United States to waive for a certain purpose the three mile limit, provided it was—and on this I should like the noble Marquess to inform us—on the distinct understanding that the United States is going to be as firm as we are in upholding as a part of International 25 Law the three-mile limit except where nations have voluntarily agreed for a special purpose to depart from it. If they do that then this departure for this purpose from the three-mile limit is not going to weaken the general doctrine of International Law, but is going to strengthen it by securing solidarity between ourselves and the United States for upholding that doctrine of International Law for the nations in general. I hope the noble Marquees will give us some information on that subject. I see in the newspapers that before the agreement has come into force British ships have been seized outside the three-mile limit, and I should like the noble Marquess to give us any information he can upon that point; because if this is to be a friendly agreement between the two nations based on upholding the rule of the three-mile limit, the rule of the three-mile limit ought to be observed until the agreement made between the two Governments has come into force.
According to the newspapers the representations to the Amir regarding the North-West Frontier of India have had a favourable result and the murder gang, I think, has now been surrendered. Perhaps the noble Marquess will be able to tell us something on that point. It will be a great relief to everyone to know that those of our officials who are on the North-West Frontier are not to be exposed to the terrible risks which they have lately had to run and that the representations to the Amir have really had an effect in breaking up the murder gang—if that be so.
I will pass over the question of Imperial Preference with this remark only. I agree personally that where we impose taxes for our own purposes we should give a preference to the Dominions. I understand that where they impose taxes for their own purposes they give a preference to us. Where I differ from part of the policy pursued is that I do not think we should impose taxes which we do not at present impose and which we should not impose otherwise, simply for the sake of giving a preference. I do not understand that, the Dominions themselves do that, and, so far as I am concerned, I think that is not called for by the reciprocal policy and that it is more likely to injure the cause of Imperial Preference in this country than to help it. But where we do impose 26 taxes for our own purposes I think it is right that we should reciprocate what the Dominions themselves do and give a preference on those taxes.
Now I come to the rest of the gracious Speech from the Throne. I observed, in listening to it, that a great deal of it was very familiar to me. On reflection I have come to the conclusion that I have read something very like a great part of it elsewhere and that I have read it in the manifestos both of the Liberal Party and of the Labour Party at the last Election. A great deal of it, almost the whole of it, is not controversial and is really common ground between the three Parties. But there is one point on which I would like to ask a question, and that is in reference to the fourth paragraph from the end, which is in these terms:—The obligation to alleviate hardship caused by the farmer disturbances in Ireland is one which is recognised by My Government and will continue to engage their active attention.I should like the noble Marquess opposite to tell us just what is meant by that. There has been, it must be within the knowledge of many of us—it is certainly within my knowledge—in more than one case the most brutal and wanton destruction, the burning of the homes of persons in Ireland who lived there, who did their best for the country, and who had accepted the Free State. Is what is meant by that paragraph that we should arrange some compensation for those people who have suffered in Ireland, either through the Irish Free State or in some way or another? There are cases of very great hardship, and I should be quite prepared to extend my sympathy. I know so many were people who, after having accepted the Irish Free State quite loyally, after having spent their whole lives living in Ireland amongst the people, and doing their best to contribute to the prosperity of the country, have had their homes most wantonly destroyed with everything in them. If that is one of the things covered by that particular paragraph I regard it with entire sympathy.
For the rest, I cannot conclude without observing that we are discussing this Speech under entirely unprecedented circumstances. The Speech is before us, but, as we know perfectly well, what has been present in the minds of all of us here and outside for the last few weeks has been the general situation which has 27 been created by the Dissolution. It is an unprecedented situation. The situation is this. The Conservative Government are in a precarious position, because they are at the mercy of the Liberal and Labour Parties if they vote together. If a Labour Government comes into power it will be in a still more precarious position, because it will be at the mercy of the Conservative Opposition unless at least sixty Liberal Members attend the House of Commons and vote with it. And if the Liberal Government came into Office it would be in a still more precarious position, for it would be at the mercy of either of the other two Parties, unless one supported it against the other. That is not a satisfactory situation for the country.
I cannot say what I think, especially as I had accepted the situation which was the result of the Election of 1922, when the Government asked for a majority from the country for non-controversial purposes. I had accepted that situation, and, as far as I and I think many others in Opposition were concerned, we had done everything we could to smooth the path of the Government after they had got that majority. I do not remember a single speech that I made in this House last year which was calculated to do any-thing but make things easier for the Government, especially in foreign affairs. With that majority intact, that they should have thrown away the majority which was given them for one purpose, and then asked for a majority for another and very controversial purpose, seems to me one of the most lamentable and astonishing things that has ever happened in our political life.
§ VISCOUNT GREY OF FALLODON
I know their case is that unemployment was very urgent, and that they felt they could not deal effectively with it without being authorised by the country to adopt a policy of Protection. Unemployment, though very serious, and very distressing —justifying all that the noble Lord who moved the Address said about it—is not worse but rather better, though only slightly better, than a year ago. But observe the result on the position of His Majesty's Government. They dissolved because they held that unemployment could not be dealt with effectively unless they were authorised to embark on a 28 policy of Protection. The other two Parties had their programmes. The Labour Party had the Capital Levy and Nationalisation, but they never linked those up with the question of unemployment. Its remedies for unemployment were quite separate from the Capital Levy and Nationalisation, which were rejected by the country even more emphatically than Protection was rejected. Put the result is that of all the three Parties His Majesty's Government are the only Party who are in the position of having said that in their view unemployment is an urgent question and cannot be dealt with effectively without Protection, yet that they are prepared to deal with unemployment when, by their own confession, they cannot do so effectively. Neither of the other two Parties is in that position. They had put forward their remedies for unemployment. They are not handicapped in approaching the question of unemployment by having to say that the one thing they thought was necessary to make it effective has been denied them.
The situation which has resulted is very serious. In foreign affairs it is lamentable. I cannot imagine a more, disagreeable position than sitting in the room at the Foreign Office engaged in laborious conversations with Ambassadors and communications with foreign Governments knowing that you represent a Government whose position is so precarious that your words abroad carry no weight. I do not know how that situation is to be bettered. It will, of course, apply to whatever Party succeeds the present Government. It can only be bettered, I think, if the Three-Party system remains, by some system under which the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs takes the leaders of the other two Parties into his confidence, and is therefore able to say, on the general lines of his policy, that the country is behind him.
We have a further very serious difficulty arising from the Election. It is that the Sovereign may be put in a very difficult position with regard to Dissolution. It seems to me conceivable that the Sovereign might find himself in this position—that there was a Prime Minister representing a minority advising him to dissolve, and the House of Commons, by a large majority, passing an Address praying him to withhold his consent to 29 a Dissolution. I hope no Prime Minister would put the Sovereign in that position, but it is just conceivable that it might happen, and I think (now that it is just conceivable) that all Parties will have to address themselves to the question of what arrangements can be made which will prevent the Sovereign from being placed in such an invidious position—in a position, in fact, in which no constitutional Monarch ought to be placed.
The Government have had a tremendous reverse at the Election. It has destroyed all their prestige. When other Governments have had to change their policy—and Sir Robert Peel did it on Protection—they have resigned, as he resigned, and he only took Office again when no one else could be found to succeed him. There are other cases of the same kind that I might mention. I do not believe that the Government which has suffered such a rebuff on its policy from the country can recover that prestige and regard which are necessary to enable it to carry on effectively the government of the country, until it has gone through the process of resignation. After that it begins to recover in I two ways—either it remains in Opposition, reforms, revises its policy, formulates its views on the current questions and the new questions which arise, and goes again before the country as a fresh and live Party, or it takes Office again because no one else can do so. It does so reluctantly, but it does it from a sense of duty that the King's Government must be carried on, and it begins to recover prestige by doing a national duty which is thrust upon it when no one else can perform it. Until the present Government has gone through one or other of these processes I do not see how it can possibly begin to recover from the disaster of the last Election.
But what about the Liberal Party? I hold the view that the temporary destruction of the Independent Liberal Party in 1918 was a great disadvantage to the public life of this country and to the House of Commons. It is very desirable that the Liberal Party should be maintained as an independent party; increased strength to the Liberal Party would be for the good of the public life of this country. But lot us be quite sure on this point, that there can be no permanent working arrangement between the Liberal Party and the Labour Party. 30 And for this reason: The Labour Party, as I understand, still hold the view—it was held by the late Mr. Keir Hardie out of no hostility to the personnel of the Liberal Party or to Liberalism—that it would be better that the Liberal Party should be eliminated altogether from public life, their opinion being that a great many people who now vote Liberal would in those circumstances vote Labour. Whether they are right or not I will not discuss now, but that is their view and permanent co-operation must be impossible. If the Liberal Party is to retain its independence it must not become the satellite of the Labour Party or of the Conservative Party.
The situation is very confused, complicated and uncertain, but the more confused the situation the more simple the course you should adopt. The course we ought as Liberals to adopt, having put our views before the country at the last Election, is simply to vote on each question as it comes up in accordance with those views without regard to the effect it may have on a particular political position. I would not refrain from voting in accordance with the views expressed at the last Election in order to keep the present Government in office, but if a question comes up on which I should naturally vote and the effect of that vote, if it were given in accordance with the expressed views of Liberalism at the last Election, would be to displace the present Government, I should not refrain from giving that vote. Should a Labour Government succeed them I should do exactly the same thing. If any question comes up on which we ought to vote, in accordance with the views we put before the country I should not refrain from giving that vote, not even in order to keep my noble and learned friend, Viscount Haldane, on the Woolsack or on the Government Bench, should he be in that position on behalf of the Labour Government.
I believe that straight voting like that, though it might result in the first few weeks and months in considerable oscillations in the political situation, would, in the long run, help to clear the atmosphere and bring about a state of things under which we should see more clearly how the King's Government can be carried on. We on the Liberal side are in this very comfortable position. We found ourselves at the last Election 31 between the danger of Protection on the one hand and the Capital Levy on the other. We find ourselves now in a Parliament in which neither of these things can be carried out. They cannot be dangerous in this Parliament; they were dangers at the Election. That is a position of considerable comfort.
Let me say one word on the question of the advent of a Labour Government. I regard the advent of a Labour Government in these circumstances with no apprehension at all. In foreign policy their aims are the same as ours, and I have some little hope that in spite of all the difficulties the introduction of new men and new minds into foreign policy may bring some better response from some other European countries than the last two Governments have been able to obtain. I know the difficulties are great, but the moment the Labour Party comes within reach of responsibility Mr. Ramsay MacDonald has been the first to realise the desirability of co-operation with France and he proclaims that as one of his objects. He appeals for co-operation to humane men and humane women in other countries of Europe, a very desirable aspiration, but the difficulty is to reach public opinion in other countries over the heads of their Governments. Nevertheless, I will not adopt his own metaphor about the spirit of pessimism being used to stem the hopes which the Labour Party entertain of being able to produce increasing friendship in Europe with other countries. I see no reason to suppose that in their foreign policy there will be any risks or dangers which are not inherent in the foreign policy of previous Governments. Imperial questions may be different. The difficulties in Egypt and India, I fear, will not be less for a Labour Government than they are for the present Government. In home affairs nothing can be done in the House of Commons except what is common ground to the three Parties and uncontroversial. We run no risks there.
Therefore I think the panic with which the advent of a Labour Party to power is regarded is quite unwarranted and even mischievous in present conditions. If any manœuvres took place to keep them out of power there would be dangers. It is perfectly monstrous that there should have been any suggestion that the Labour Party has not been having fair play since the Election. There 32 was a suggestion by Mr. Ramsay MacDonald that they were not getting fair play. They got less than one-third of the votes polled at the last Election and so far from there having been any lack of fair play there has been in some quarters, some very unexpected quarters like The Times newspaper, a readiness, almost an eagerness, to get them into Office which, if I were a member of the Labour Party, I should regard as being almost too good to be true and look upon with a certain amount of suspicion. Certainly there has been not less but more readiness to clear the way for a Labour Government coming into Office than there has ever been for any Party which got so few votes at an Election. If it gets abroad in the country that the Labour Party is not receiving fair play it will begin to produce the very danger which I think is a real apprehension before the country.
The real cause for apprehension is not the advent of a Labour Government to power which is going to act by constitutional means. The real danger which we may have at some time to face will be that, if a Labour Government is displaced, or if, after being in existence for a year or two, it is suspended, the hands of its extreme supporters, of those who (and there are such in this country) wish to carry by force that which they cannot carry by constitutional means, will be strengthened. The struggle is, in my opinion, far more likely to be between those who are in favour of constitutional methods and mean to uphold them and those who wish to follow the precedent of some foreign countries, a very frequent precedent now, by breaking down constitutional methods and thrusting Parliamentary government aside. The danger is not a constitutional Labour Government; it is direct action and the attempt to set Parliament aside.
We have four great things upon which, as it seems to me, our Constitution and our liberties depend. One is an impartial and independent judiciary: another is that no man is to be arrested or imprisoned without being brought to trial before those impartial Courts by due process of law; a third is that no taxes are to be collected and no money is to be spent without the authority of duly elected representatives of the people; and the fourth is the right of free speech, 33 both inside and outside Parliament. You may say that none of those things is apparently threatened. The first three are not threatened, but there were ominous signs at the last Election that the right of free speech outside Parliament was in danger. There was at least one constituency where no public meetings could be held. The right of free speech means the right to hold public meetings and express views, and there has lately been a growing tendency to interfere with that right of free speech.
We shall see what the result of future events will be. We know very well that these events will depend upon what happens in the House of Commons, and this is a matter concerning which I do not think we should attempt to make a prediction this afternoon. We know that the situation is very precarious, but so long as a constitutional Government comes into power, a Government which acts by constitutional means, I do not believe that there will be serious trouble in this country or serious danger—certainly not in this Parliament; and, when this Parliament is over, I have confidence in the good sense of the electors. If there be danger ahead, we are misdirecting our apprehensions if we direct them to a constitutional Labour Government coming into power. We had better reserve those apprehensions for that which, I think, is a real though perhaps a remote possibility, that of a struggle between the forces who are for maintaining the Constitution and our liberties and the forces who are in favour of settling things by violence. If that struggle comes I have no doubt as to the way in which it will be decided. We depend to-day, as we have always depended, upon the sound sense and the feeling for liberty of our people. If that is gone, if that is weakened under modern conditions, then no Government and no system will save us; but if that remains, as I am sure it does remain, then no changes of Government and no changes of system will undermine the prosperity and strength of this country.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (THE MARQUESS CURZON OF KEDLESTON)
My Lords, before I attempt to deal with the questions which have been addressed to me in the very remarkable and far-reaching speech from the noble 34 Viscount to which we have just listened, I should like to say one word upon the loss of a distinguished man who has disappeared from our midst since we last met in your Lordships' House—I refer to the late Earl Loreburn. Lord Loreburn was a man of very strong personality and character; he was a man who cherished certain convictions with an almost passionate intensity; but he was a man of the highest integrity and the greatest moral courage. I sat with him for years in another place, and when he came here he appeared to me to be an illustration of a not uncommon phenomenon—namely, that his peculiar combination of gifts seemed to find a better theatre of display in this House than it had done across the way. There I remember him as a rather fiery partisan, but in this House he was an embodiment of mellow and judicial wisdom, and I think we all of us remember with respect and even with affection the attitude which he always adopted when he occupied the Woolsack, and which was a mixture of urbane dignity on the one hand with a gentle and rather attractive form of reproach upon the other. He has gone. His name will always remain honoured in the annals of this House. Certainly, during my recollection of your Lordships' House, no more popular or respected man has occupied that Woolsack.
The noble Lord who seconded the Address alluded in a sentence to the impending visit of the Prince, of Wales to the South African Dominions of the Crown. This will be the latest—I am sure we all hope that it will not be the last—of the Imperial tours of His Royal Highness. During the last few years, by means of these tours, he has placed a chain of loyalty and devotion round the globe, and the noble Lord who spoke behind me never said a truer thing than when he remarked that at no period in our history was the Royal House more deeply rooted in the affections and devotion of the Empire at large. Certainly no heir to the Throne has ever contributed so much both by his qualities and his energies to bring about that result as has His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.
I do not think I need say much about the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the Address. They were listened to with great favour by your Lordships' House, and they were exactly the 35 character of utterance which, on an occasion like this, we are disposed to welcome. In the debates on the Address in this House we listen more often, perhaps, to noble Lords who yet have their spurs to win, and whose performance on this rather delicate occasion is often a presage of future success. But this afternoon we listened to two noble Lords whom I think I might almost call Parliamentary veterans. One of them told us that nearly a quarter of a century ago he discharged a corresponding duty in the House of Commons. One of the main sources of strength in this House is the perpetual recruitment that we receive from the experience and strength of the other, and after listening to these two noble Lords this afternoon not only do we feel assured that we have such a contribution to our membership here, but I am sure that their speeches left us all with the hope that they will many times again intervene in our proceedings.
The main part of the speech of the noble Viscount who has just sat down related to foreign affairs, and I will endeavour to deal with the various points that he raised. My noble friend Lord Daryngton spoke in the latter part of his observations about the tendency which he had noticed to belittle the efforts of the Government and to disparage the position and prestige of Great Britain in the world. Indeed there have, during the past year, been many symptoms of that tendency. When the noble Viscount began his speech just now I wondered how far, if at all, I should hear in it an echo of the rhetorical reverberations of his chief, Mr. Asquith. Only a month ago Mr. Asquith was making a speech in which he said that the record of this Government in foreign affairs had been one of unbroken impotence and humiliation, and he spoke of this country being reduced to a cypher in the council chambers of the world. If that were the case, should we not have heard something about it from by far the most powerful exponent of foreign affairs in the ranks of the Liberal Party, in speaking this afternoon? If it were true, why have not Mr. Asquith, or other members of his Party, moved votes of censure upon us, either in the House of Commons or in the House of Lords? I cannot recall a single occasion on which such an attempt has been made, and when I read these rhetorical denunciations my withers are quite unwrung.
36 We all know that at Election times it is a common thing to say that under the auspices of a Government with which you do not agree the prestige of the country has sunk to a lower ebb than it ever occupied before. That is part of the stage properties of Party warfare. I remember, nearly thirty years ago, when I served Lord Salisbury as Under-Secretary, that exactly the same language was used about that great Minister, but when he had passed away the country awoke to the fact that its foreign affairs had been administered by one of the greatest Foreign Ministers of modern times. Therefore, I am, personally, not much disturbed by these charges brought at this moment and in this particular way, and I say this to myself: A year ago, at this time, I happened to be at Lausanne. I will not say anything this afternoon about the Treaty which was concluded, because I agree with the noble Viscount that we had better postpone our remarks until the Bill comes before the House; but I certainly carried away from Lausanne no impression that the voice or weight of England ranked low in the councils of the world. Rather, I should say that my impression, which would be borne out by every one there, was that of all the Powers represented the prestige and power and moral weight of England stood incomparably the highest, and if you were to ask who stands best with the nations with which we concluded Peace, I do not think that there could be any doubt as to the reply.
May I mention one other point on the general question? A little while ago the Ministers of the Dominions of the Crown came to this country to take part in the Imperial Conference. They were necessarily ignorant of much of the inner history of foreign affairs, although the information which we give them is as full as it is possible to give in the circumstances of the case. They came to this Conference, they asked many questions, they made important speeches, and I think we discussed foreign affairs for several days at a time. Surely, if there had been this decline in the influence and power of Great Britain, they would have been the first to find it out; but at the end of that time they expressed unanimous approval of the principles upon which the policy of the present Government has been carried out, and I remember with particular pleasure the personal 37 assurance from each one of the Prime Ministers, before he left the country, that he ardently hoped that that policy would be continued on the same lines, and even by the same person who was then charged with the task.
The noble Viscount said, and said with truth, that the international sky is heavily overclouded, and that it is difficult to discern many rifts in the, cloud. He always speaks with balance and judgment and sobriety on these matters, and what he said was perfectly true. For my own part I have felt, since I had the honour of being connected with the Foreign Office, that, apart from the general settlement of the great confusion caused by the war, the first task incumbent upon the Foreign Minister of this country was, so far as possible, to clear away what might be thought the unnecessary and removable obstacles that block our path. They are alluded to in the King's Speech. Certainly, when I went to the Foreign Office I did find that the sea I was navigating was strewn with the wreckage of unsolved problems, and that the channels on which I sailed were marked by uncomfortable and dangerous rocks, lifting their heads above the surface: and prior to the big all-round settlement which we had in view we did undertake, and have proceeded with the undertaking, one by one to eliminate those sources of difficulty and trouble, feeling that if you can get out of the way all these petty and irritating; sources of disagreement or discord, you introduce a better atmosphere in which you can approach the larger issues. It is therefore with some satisfaction that we record in the Speech from the Throne that several of these small obstacles have been removed.
The noble Viscount asked me one or two questions, and I will deal quite briefly with each. There was first the difficulty which arose with the United States Government owing to the illicit importation of liquor into their ports. The point of view from which we regarded it was this: Prohibition, whether you think it wise or unwise, is part of the settled policy of the United States. It is the law of the land and it represents the moral conviction of an immense majority, I am informed, of the people of the United States. There fore, the United States Government having taken that line, there did seem to be 38 something unpleasant, undesirable, incongruous, in the spectacle of other nations, including our own, using their legal position to interfere with the due execution of that policy. I agree with the view of the noble Viscount that the spectacle of this rum running, of a row of ships outside trying to smuggle liquor into the United States, is a sorry and sordid spectacle, and the fact that it was legal did not make it any more attractive, because these things have to be regarded not from the print of view of their legality but from the point of view of their effect upon international sentiment.
And therefore, when the Dominion Premiers came over here, one of the first things we did was to settle down to discover how far we could meet the American point of view. Then we were brought up against the point to which the noble Viscount rightly attached supreme importance, and that is that we should not in any way jeopardise or qualify the fundamental principle of International Law and of British policy, namely, the three-mile limit of territorial waters. On that point we found the United States Government entirely prepared to meet us, and not only to agree to our enunciation of that principle, but to enunciate it themselves. And when the Treaty comes before your Lordships' House you will find that it contains a declaration in which that principle is reaffirmed by both parties to the Treaty. The other point to which we attached importance was the getting of permission for our ships to take their liquor under seal into the territorial waters of the United States, provided we made the concession that was indicated. The Treaty is, I hope, on the verge of conclusion. It has gone to our Dominions for the expression of their final approval and ratification, and I hope that, this matter being out of the way, one of the few existing sources of possible friction or disagreement—they are very few—between the United States and ourselves will disappear. The noble Viscount asked one question. He said: What about these American ships which seem to be pouncing outside the three-mile limit at the present moment? I think that is due to an excessive zeal on their part which I deprecate, but which I do not, wish to take too seriously, because I want these matters to be brought to a proper ending.
39 The next question that the noble Viscount asked was about Afghanistan. Here, although I am in general agreement with what he said, I think he was disposed, perhaps, to place the matter in a rather more favourable light than is actually the case at the present moment. It is not a case only of the murder of one person, or of one set of persons. There have been several murders, and these murders have been committed, as the House, I think, knows, in that turbulent and disputed fringe between the British and Afghan territory, by persons, some of whom are Afghan subjects, some of whom belong to tribes who are nominally our subjects because they are within the Durand Line, but who, after the perpetration of outrages like these, are apt to run across the border in order to take shelter there, and who belong to tribes with whom the Amir himself finds it difficult altogether to quarrel because they receive subsidies from him, and their friendly attitude towards Afghanistan is an element of importance to him on his side of the frontier, just as it is to us upon ours.
What has happened has been that one of these gangs only has surrendered to the Afghan authorities—the gang that were responsible for the murder at Kohat in British territory, and the Afghan Government have undertaken to remove them to a remote part of Afghanistan and keep them under surveillance there. We shall, of course, expect the Afghan Government scrupulously to adhere to its undertaking in that respect, because it is not consistent with the laws of hospitality that prevail in those regions to expect that the Afghan Government will consent to give them up. But it now remains for the Amir—and that is my reason for saying that the case is not closed—to deal with the other murderers, of whom there are two or three, if not more, other groups. When these things have been done the air will be cleared, and we may anticipate that peace will reign again upon the Frontier. So that, although the omens are, on the whole, encouraging, I would not like the noble Viscount or the House to pitch their expectations for the moment too high.
The next question that he said a word about was Tangier. Here, again, I think I can dismiss the matter in a few words, although I am sure the House will join in the general congratulations that have 40 been offered upon the removal of this rather troublesome affair from the international board. The case was this. Out-interest in Tangier, apart from the historical and sentimental interest arising from the fact that it once belonged to the British Crown, over two hundred years ago, has been partly strategical, and partly commercial—strategical because of its place at the entrance to the Mediterranean, commercial because we have a large trade with the port, and, when the railway is built, we shall have a still larger trade with the interior, and because we were fighting there, as elsewhere, for the principle of the open door.
This matter has been dragging on unsettled for years. As far back as 1912 negotiations began between the French, the Spaniards, and ourselves, who were the parties principally concerned, and were almost on the verge of conclusion in 1914 when the war broke out and brought them to a temporary end. During the four or five years that I have been at the Foreign Office I have made efforts with each successive French Foreign Minister—M. Millerand, M. Leygues, M. Briand, and M. Poincaré—to bring the matter to a head, and we succeeded at last in getting a Conference in the concluding months of last year, and we have now got a settlement, which provides for the permanent neutralisation of Tangier, which gives us the open door, and which sets up in the Tangier zone an international administration. I hope the matter will now be satisfactorily concluded. The Spanish Government are still anxious to get one or two modifications that are of importance to them. They have behaved in difficult circumstances with moderation and statesmanship, and I hope that we may succeed in giving them something of what they desire. If that be so, the matter will be concluded, and one more of the obstacles of which I spoke will have been removed.
There is just one other of these smaller affairs which is not mentioned in His Majesty's gracious Speech, but which I am enabled, in consequence of what has happened during the last twenty-four hours, to refer to. I speak of Greece. You will recollect that in November, 1922, when the Revolutionary Government in Greece executed a number of Ministers, His Majesty's Government felt compelled 41 to protest against this barbarous action, and to break off diplomatic relations. Since then Greece has been in a position of very considerable instability, which has reacted in every way upon her fortunes, both internally and externally. At length a Constituent Assembly was held in the late autumn, at which a moderate Liberal majority was returned, the King was invited temporarily to leave the country, pending the settlement by plebiscite at a later date of the form of Constitution which the people desire to adopt, and then Greece did the wisest thing which she has done for some time past in inviting and persuading M. Venizelos to go back once more to Athens. That eminent man, much against his personal will, consented to throw himself again into the political whirlpool, and he has formed a Government in Greece of which he is the President. It does not contain any members of the revolutionary committee who were responsible for the act which brought about our severance of relations with them, and accordingly we have intimated to M. Venizelos that we have had great pleasure in at once resuming diplomatic relations with Greece. That means the beginning again of a connection between ourselves and that little country which has lasted for over a hundred years, and which has been marked by incidents throughout that occupy a prominent place in the recollection of both parties.
I have now dealt, I think, with the smaller questions raised by the noble Viscount on foreign affairs, and I will deal with the, larger issues that he raised. I do not think that I dispute in any respect anything that fell from his lips upon the point of the European situation. The difficulty with which we have been confronted for the past year arose from the occupation, exactly a year ago in this very week, by the French and Belgian troops of the Ruhr. That occupation was dissented from by Mr. Bonar Law's Government. We declined to accept any responsibility for it, nor were we, willing to participate in it; and the prognostications that we hazarded at that time as to its probable results have, I fear, been more than fulfilled. Nevertheless, we felt profoundly, as the noble Viscount feels, that the only key to a settlement of the European question lies not in discord but in union, not in the disruption but in the maintenance of the Entente. I have 42 often stated that in this House with just as much emphasis as we have heard it stated in the speech of the noble Viscount. It is the basic principle of European recovery, and for the last few years we have made unceasing and strenuous efforts to continue and to cement that union.
I recall that in the last two years I have been live times to Paris in order to try to keep this Entente not only upon its legs but strong and vigorous, and throughout our policy has been one of pacification, of persuasion, of conciliation, and of compromise. We used all the influence we could with Germany to get her to desist from her foolish policy of passive resistance. We sought at every moment the co-operation of America without which, in my judgment, the matter will never eventually be settled. When the German Government answered us on June 7 we were anxious to send a joint reply to them from the various Allies; while on the spot itself, in the occupied area, we have done everything that we could to make things easy for the French Government in respect of the running of railways, in respect of the imposition of German Customs, and of the kind of arrangements that have been set up between the French and the Gorman industrials. I do not think it would have been possible for any Government, consistently with its principles, to have shown a more reasonable or conciliatory attitude, and if from time to time we have been called upon in Despatches or otherwise to state our views with clearness—that is a duty incumbent upon this or upon any other Government—they contained no element of provocation whatsoever.
The noble Viscount, I think, was right in attaching importance to the constitution of these two Committees set up by the Reparation Commission for the examination on the one hand of the question of the German budget and German currency and on the other hand of the flight abroad of German capital and the means of bringing it back. One of my noble friends behind me spoke of the high authority of the British financiers who had consented to serve upon that Committee and, without pitching my expectations too high, I do hope, I feel assured, that they will take a wide and statesmanlike survey of the whole situation and that when we get their report it will mean a move forward 43 towards a settlement of this Reparation problem. At each stage I must confess that the difficulty, the main difficulty, I might almost say the sole difficulty, that we have found has been the very uncompromising and unswerving line that has been taken by our great Ally. Whether that is likely to be modified in our time or in the time of our successors I cannot myself say. But this I would like to add, that if His Majesty's present Government is to be ejected from Office and to be succeeded never mind by whom, there is not a single telegram or Despatch or record of an interview for which His Majesty's Government or I as their representative at the Foreign Office have been responsible in this matter for the last four years that we would mind being laid before the public. And if at any time my successors and the successors of this Government, whoever they be, contemplate such a publication and ask our leave to it, for my part it will be unhesitatingly given. I say that myself I court the fullest publicity for our policy in every one of its aspects, and the more it is known the more will it be realised how consistent it has been and how little it deserves the charges of irresolution or impotence that have been so unfairly directed against it.
The noble Viscount then asked me to say something about a very troublesome question that has arisen in the Palatinate of Bavaria during the past few weeks. I understood him to accompany his question on that point by a general statement of his view that these Separatist movements, this setting up of upstart and artificial States out of the body of the German Reich should, as an act of public policy, be discouraged by the Allies; that is to say, unless they represent a genuine feeling among the community or unless they represent a tendency which is approved by the German Government itself. I heartily endorse that policy. The history of these Separatist movements can, I think, be summed up in a sentence or two. Ever since last summer or the beginning of the autumn there was a series of these sporadic attempts at setting up little local Republics. They began at Aix. They were transferred to Coblenz. They were mostly the result of the action of a set of adventurers without authority, not representing the sentiments of the bulk of the population, and accompanied by much 44 terrorism and disorder. The whole of these schemes one after the other, against which we always set our faces, which we discouraged by every means in our power, gradually collapsed one by one and we all of us thought that the atmosphere was more clear, when suddenly, in November last, we heard of a fresh movement organised in the Palatinate.
That is an area on the left bank of the Rhine which happens to be occupied by French troops and where another sort of sham Republic was set up. Our information is that there was no real movement for separation, that both the head of the Roman Catholic Church and the head of the Protestant Church in the Palatinate visited the High Commission and assured our representative that the movement was utterly alien to the spirit of the people, and that the signatures to the Declaration of Independence which had been given had been largely extorted by threats. The matter became rather acute when, only a few days ago, this so-called autonomous Government submitted certain decrees which it had passed to the body known as the High Commission, consisting of British, French and Belgian representatives, which has authority in the occupied areas, and asked that this High Commission should register those decrees and enable them to come into effect. Our representative, Lord Kilmarnock, had no hesitation in declining to give his assent to a proposal which would practically have amounted to recognition of a State which had no legal existence at all, and which did not represent the sentiments of the people.
Further, our view was influenced by the conviction that the High Commission is not there for that purpose at all. The High Commission, according to the terms of the Versailles Treaty and the Rhineland Agreement, is there for the purpose of maintaining the security, et cetera, of the troops, and has nothing whatever to do with politics. We were, therefore, unable to agree that this body had any authority whatsoever either to register those decrees or to recognise this Government. And here let the House remember what I said just now. Supposing the movement was a genuine one there is provided in the terms of what is known as the Weimar Constitution—that is to say, the new Constitution of the German State—means by which, on application from a 45 third of the voters in any area, a plebiscite can be taken, and autonomy within the Reich can be secured. Therefore still less justification was there for this hasty and upstart simulacrum of a government in the Palatinate.
Our difficulty was in ascertaining exactly what was going on. Here there has arisen some trouble with the French, which, I hope, we may be able to compose. We instructed Lord Kilmarnock to send one of his officers to report to us on the situation. The French objected to that on technical grounds, and accordingly we said that if they did not think an officer of the High Commission should be used for the purpose we would gladly withdraw him, which we did. We then instructed our consul at Munich, in whose consulate area the Palatinate lies, to visit the country and give us an account of what was going on. Here again the French took up an attitude which, I must confess, I am incapable of understanding. They took up the attitude of saying that if this consul of ours went into territory occupied by French troops (to which we have just as much right as they), they would feel it their duty to attach an officer to shadow him and to see what he was doing. Meanwhile, in the area occupied by the British troops further north at Cologne, there are any number of French officers regularly employed, given every facility that we can accord to them, and during the last day or two, when a proposal was made by the French Government to consent to French officers going into our area to make certain investigations which they had in view, we replied at once that we should be delighted to see them and give them every facility in our power. There the matter rests for the moment. I do not think I should have alluded to it had not the noble Viscount asked me to do so, but it indicates a situation of some little anxiety, but one which, I hope, discretion, wisdom and reserve may enable us to solve.
I think I have now dealt with all the questions of foreign affairs about which the noble Lord asked me, but may I, before I sit down, add a word or two about the very important question which he raised in the latter part of his speech? Somewhat perhaps to our surprise, but undoubtedly greatly to our edification and satisfaction, the noble Viscount favoured us with his estimate of the 46 present situation, of the circumstances in which we are all placed, of the duty that will be incumbent upon the Party of which he is so prominent a member, and of the future that he anticipates if another Government of Labour or Socialistic complexion is placed in power. It was a very weighty and well-balanced survey. I am not certain that I agree with it in all parts, but as he was delivering his estimate I was in my own mind trying to make out what my estimate would be, and if it does not precisely coincide with that of the noble Viscount your Lordships will still forgive me if I follow his lead in placing it for what it is worth before you.
The noble Viscount alluded to the length of the King's Speech, which, he said, was unprecedented, and he asked me to give an explanation. I admit that it is rather long, and many of us would have liked to make it shorter, but it is far from being unprecedented. During the last three or four years only there have been speeches nearly double as long. The fact is that when you commence to put a programme down upon paper, or measures to which you commit yourself as a Party without necessarily implying that you can carry them in a single Session of Parliament, it is very difficult, in the complexity of modern politics, to secure any very considerable compression.
What is the position in which we are placed ? The present Government went to the country with a programme which was designed, in their judgment, to supplement, and to some extent replace, the other methods of dealing with the unemployment problem, and they sought the judgment of the country upon that programme. Whether they were wise or unwise in doing it, whether the country was taken by surprise or not—points upon which the noble Viscount favoured us with his view—is irrelevant to the present situation. We are confronted now with this bald fact that the Government, having, rightly or wrongly, invited the decision of the country upon this policy, what may not unfairly be called a referendum took place upon it. The result of the referendum was that the policy failed to meet with the acceptance of the people. There we are on common ground. Nevertheless, while our prescription was rejected, the country expressed no preference for the prescription of anybody else. The country 47 certainly gave no vote for Labour. Both Conservatives and Liberals were opposed to the Labour programme, and at the present moment, as we all know, Labour only has something like 190 Members in the House of Commons. But neither did the country express the smallest regard for Liberalism. The noble Viscount spoke somewhat sanguinely just now of the Liberal programme. It is a discovery to me that there was any Liberal programme at the last Election. It is true that noble Lords and others wrapped round their bosom the tattered flag of the Liberalism of the last century, and that they pursued the negative policy of equally denouncing the programme of the Conservative Party and the programme of the Labour Party, but where the positive elements in their programme were I still have to discover.
Therefore we come to this rather anomalous position, that in so far as the country expressed at the last Election any preference for any Party it was for the Party that is going to be turned out. Nobody can deny the fact that the numbers of the other Parties are 190 and, I think, 160, while our total is 260, and we polled in the country, I have been told, within 25,000 votes of those which were recorded for our Party at the preceding Election fought by Mr. Bonar Law a year earlier. If so, if we are to be governed, as seems likely by the three-Party system, it would appear that the country would really, judged by its votes, prefer to be ruled by the Conservatives rather than by the Liberals or Socialists; and that is the justification for our Speech. We have yet to learn, possibly we shall learn before long, that the country, as represented by the new House of Commons, is unwilling to trust its destinies to our hands, but for the moment, being the leading Party and by far the leading Party, we have no alternative but to place before it proposals which we shall be prepared to proceed with, dropping that proposal which the electorate declined to accept at the recent Election.
Now let us take the question another stage further. It now appears that as Labour alone cannot turn us out, as Liberalism alone cannot turn us out, the two are going to combine to turn us out. What happy bedfellows they will be. As I listened to the noble Viscount just now and heard his stern repudiation of any sympathy or truck with the Labour Party 48 there was brought home to me the singularly precarious and composite character of the support on which a Labour Government will have to rely. Mr. Asquith made a strong speech about this a little while ago. If I may be allowed to say so, I think it was a most unwise and deplorable speech. It is not for me to pass judgment upon the attitude which he and his colleagues are going to take up. It is for them to say; but I think he will repent that speech in the future. I do not think that the man who seizes on a great public occasion to say that he will not lift a little finger to maintain the present Government in office will have cause to be surprised if in the future, when he wants support, he does not find many little fingers lifted up for him. That is my personal opinion. I deprecate and deplore the speech he made, at the same time recognising his perfect right to take the action he contemplates.
What is the task thereby imposed upon us? It is not in this House that the axe is going to fall; it will descend over the way. But it is the most extraordinarily long drawn out execution on record. In our history we read that at executions it was ordinarily the victim who was invited to make a speech, and who, advancing to the edge of the scaffold, made his last defence or apology to the crowd; and the only delay that then took place was the delay which might arise from a lack of skill on the part of the executioner in making two or three strokes instead of one. On this occasion it is not the victim who is to make the speeches, it is the executioners, and in another House I am told that for four days all these executioners are going to explain at enormous length why they have put on the mask and how they will wield the axe. It will be most interesting to hear a Liberal, whether he be of the actual complexion of the noble Viscount or not, explaining how, with an ardent adherence to the principles of Liberalism, he thinks it consistent with his public duty to put a Socialist Government in power, and it will be equally interesting to hear a Labour Member express his views about the Party upon whose co-operation he relies for getting into power at all.
I have been told that after I sit down, which will be in a few moments, the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Haldane, is 49 likely to address us. I look forward with absorbing interest to his intending performance; I look forward to his lifting some little corner of the curtain that veils the features of the future Ministry, and if when the curtain is lifted I see the ample and acceptable form of the noble and learned Viscount seated under it I assure the House and the noble and learned Viscount that it will be with sentiments of the most profound gratification. He perhaps will tell us what will happen. Then I suppose, if the axe falls in the way I have indicated, your Lordships will have to adjourn for a while and the new Government will devote some time to considering what it is to do with this Bench. During the last few years I have sometimes had to complain of its congestion. The noble and learned Viscount will have no trouble about that. The difficulty will be to get anybody to sit upon it at all, and I suppose we shall have the spectacle of the noble and learned Viscount filling the same rôle as the Duke of Wellington who, in former days, represented in this House six posts in the Government at the same time. The noble and learned Viscount is quite equal to the charge, and if he is a multiform personage in the future I assure him we shall not spare him.
One word upon the point raised by the noble Viscount. He said that he was not afraid of a Labour Government coming into power. I was glad to hear him say that because it shows the vigilant and effective nature of the check which he personally is prepared to apply. I do not altogether share his feelings, but in one respect I am in agreement with him. He spoke about foreign affairs, and the historical tradition of continuity in foreign affairs, a tradition of which, I may be allowed to say, he has been a most consistent and loyal exponent, and to which to the best of my ability I have also adhered. Whether it be possible to arrive at the kind of agreement of which he speaks, by which Foreign Ministers shall act in-consultation as he suggests in great events, I cannot say. It would be difficult although perhaps not impracticable. If a Labour Government comes into power, and pursues a policy, whether it be exactly the same as ours or not, but a policy which is consistent with the dignity, honour and interest of the country as we regard them, there 50 will be no factious opposition here, any more than the noble Viscount has exposed us to factious opposition. I hope I shall be as incapable of it as he. But if, on the other hand, the violent proposals and schemes we sometimes hear foreshadowed in the speeches of important members of the Party that seem likely to take our place come before us, then I hope your Lordships, as you have on many occasions been called upon to do in the past, will remember that here perhaps more than in any place lies both the duty and the power of conserving those principles which lie at the root of good government and even of society itself.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
My Lords, after the cordial invitation which the noble Marquess has given to me to give enlightenment to your Lordships' House I feel it is impossible for me to remain silent, however little light I may feel myself in a position to throw. But at least I need not be very long, because there are some topics from which I feel myself warned off. There is the delightful controversy between the Leader of the House and my noble friend, Lord Grey, upon the respective merits of the programmes of their Parties. Heaven forbid that I should enter upon that topic! With the speech of my noble friend beside me I found myself almost in entire agreement. For a moment I thought that he was making a speech as a Labour leader, until I recalled to myself that he was not, and it was only towards the end of his remarks that any question arose which raised doubt in my mind.
The noble Viscount spoke of the great principles which are the safeguards of our liberties and of the Constitution, and referring to the fourth, that of free speech, he spoke as if it had an appearance of being in slight peril and he alluded to that which had taken place at the recent Election. There is no doubt that at the recent Election there was a great deal of violent interruption and, on many occasions; a denial of a fair hearing. But I would remind my noble friend who sits by me of what took place when he and I entered Parliament together in the December of 1885, though that is a long time ago. A new Franchise Act had just been passed, and I remember my anxiety and, I think, his anxiety, too, to redeem ourselves from the reproach that our too enthusiastic supporters, 51 gifted with the new gift of an increased franchise that had been conferred upon them, would not allow the Conservative candidates to obtain a hearing at all. That was our fear in my constituency, and I think I recall something of the kind in his own constituency, which was adjacent to mine. It always happens, and it cannot help happening. You cannot keep your people within the restraint which you would like to impose. No authority in a Party can do it. They are very keen and deeply moved, and the result is that they are not very fair to the other side. Sometimes it happens among the supporters of our opponents, and I think we have all had difficulties of that kind. If anything of the kind happened the other day, I do not think that it was designed to put the great principle of free speech in peril. That is a principle to which the Labour Party are at least as much attached as any other Party in the State.
The noble Marquess, with his customary facility of phrase, dealt with the items of the most gracious Speech, and, with great dialectical skill, he dwelt mainly upon these items one by one. But that which has been impressing me has been more the appearance of these items taken in globo and looked at together than their effect when they are taken separately. The items themselves are excellent, admirable, but surely the shining raiment in which the Government has clothed itself under the agis of the Throne is a raiment which was measured and cut out for someone of a very different stature from that which the Government possesses at this time. Even a Government with a noble figure, a great majority, would have found this mantle a little long for it, and the Government of to-day has provided itself with a robe which will inevitably trail on the ground, and probably in the mud. Why they adopted a King's Speech of such a complex and enormous character I am puzzled to understand. Two course were open to the Prime Minister. One was to resign at once after the last Election, in which case he would have had an easier time, and I am not sure that his Party would not have had an easier time. The other course was to carry on, as Sir Robert Peel did under trying circumstances long ago, and that meant a very restricted and businesslike programme to which nobody could take exception. I am not saying that of the items which compose 52 the present gracious Speech there are not many to which no Party, neither the Labour Party nor anybody else, is likely to take exception, but I do say that the spirit means everything, and that the question will be whether the spirit which enters into these items and which animates the declarations of the Government is a spirit large enough to carry the thing on.
That which I am going to say is a criticism upon my noble friend, Lord Grey, as well as upon the noble Marquess. There has been growing, and steadily growing, a current of democracy. Every extension of the franchise has accelerated it, and now it is very large. They sit on the bank—and this, I agree with the noble Marquess, applies to both of them—they watch that current flowing, and they have taken very few steps and they have shown no earnestness about giving it a larger and more secure channel in which it can flow freely. I do not mean to say that much has been done in the way of damming it up, but some things have been done accidentally and, I think, unintentionally, which have had that tendency, and I think the result has been that the current, being dammed up, has threatened to overflow the land around the banks and to produce devastation. That always happens unless you are most particular to keep the channel in which public opinion in this country has to flow adequate to the requirements of the time.
Many of your Lordships are troubled at the idea of Labour coming to power, but this is not the first occasion upon which people have been troubled in this country, and troubled, as it has turned out, wholly without reason. In 1832 there was great terror, and what was the result? As soon as public opinion had a channel in which it could flow freely things became quiet, as they had not been for twenty years before the great Reform Act of 1832 was passed. When the Chartists' riots came about in 1848 almost every country in Europe was afflicted with a revolution except our own. The Chartists were making demands some of which were thought to be very violent, and the Whigs—not people who were altogether immaculate in their ideas, but very shrewd people—frankly refused to listen to the appeals which were made to them in this House and elsewhere to deal 53 with the Chartists as it was said they ought to be dealt with. The Chartists were threatening to march on London. Nobody threatens to march on anybody in these days, but that is what the Chartists did. What was done by the Whigs? Instead of retiring to the fortress and locking themselves up, which would probably have been disastrous, they spoke with the enemy within the gate and found him to be their own flesh and blood, very much like themselves. In the end very nearly the whole Chartist programme was incorporated into reforms which took place, the only exception being the annual Parliament, which was found to be unnecessary and which was put aside by the desire of all Parties.
The same thing happened again in 1868. We were then told that we were about to shoot Niagara. We passed a very great Franchise Bill, and there was much excitement, but the result again proved to be that public opinion, having found a channel in which it could flow, flowed freely in that channel, and there was a period of very fertile reform which went on until those leaders of the Progressive movement on both sides got out of date—became antiquated, as the Leader of the House suggested that the Liberals have now become. Then what happened? There was a new Franchise Act in 1895, which led to enormous changes, not only in the machinery of our Government but in the Constitution, and the result was that in the end there were such developments in Parliament and outside it that the country became animated by a very different political outlook Nothing wrong happened. There was security, and finally things went on developing under the influence of the War until the great Franchise Act of 1918 was passed by the Conservative Party, which added enormously to the electorate, bringing it up to over 20,000,000. The noble Marquess took no exception to that Act. It was an Act which gave to a great many people the opportunity for that freedom of speech of which we have heard tonight and enabled them to express their views.
Inevitably, as in the case of the earlier movement, something new has developed—new demands and higher standards, and if you want to know why these higher standards have developed it is easy to ascertain Go to Glasgow, where 54 it is said that such violent things are happening, and get anybody to take you over the slums of that City. See the horrible overcrowded tenements in which the people are housed. Look at the misery caused by unemployment on the Clydeside, and then ask yourselves whether it is wonderful that in Glasgow things are being carried on rather violently. But it is not only in Glasgow—it is everywhere. Go to our mining villages. I know some mining villages which are perfect models—there everything possible has been done-but I know-other pits where the villages at the pitheads are not places where you could possibly breed Yahoos, much less human beings. Those things exist still, although they are much better than they were. Still they are bad enough to make a very great difference.
There was a nobleman who sat for a long time in this House and who did notable work for the State. I mean the late Lord Shaftesbury. He used language in this House which was violent. He spoke, and he was resisted. He spoke of these things with which I have been dealing. He had very little to support him, but in the end he triumphed, as that sort of appeal must always triumph when it is based on reason, but not until very strong language had been used. All over there is a heightening of standards—a desire on the part of the people to have more of a chance of life on the same footing as their neighbours. I have probably addressed as many meetings on the subject of the education of the people as anybody in this country in the past few years, and it has brought me in contact with working men and women, who were not thinking about wages but of a chance of better education for their children. Those are things we have looked on at in the past, and the result is that you have had 192 votes returned to the House of Commons, there to secure that there shall be a better standard of things in this country, and that we shall no longer relapse into the old ways. It is a deep regret to me to find myself separated from my old Liberal friends. I was brought up in the traditions of the Liberal Party, and I hold them still, and it is only because I hold strongly that it is not a question of what we can control but of what are the facts, that I am satisfied there is this great new movement which, 55 if it be not put into shape and not given its chance, will make itself one very difficult for the Government of the King.
In the gracious Speech there are a great many valuable items. I do not say anything about the relations with the Dominions—there is a little difficulty about those, as we shall hear hereafter—but there is a reference to the failure of the policy of Protection. I sometimes wonder why we are so unimaginative. We live on an island, and that is an important consideration for two reasons. In the first place, it necessitates our getting our food and raw materials across the seas. Otherwise we should sink into the condition of an over-populated and discontented nation, which might be reduced to miserable starvation. In the second place, it brings about a national sentiment which demands a large Navy to keep the seas policed. To enable the stuff to come to us we require a Navy which can take sufficient care of our affairs as to ensure our safety against starvation. I was glad to see in the Speech from the Throne a reference to cruisers, which I assume to be for the purpose of looking after our trade routes. The subject of trade routes is one which has been very much neglected, and if this means that study has been given to trade routes then I think it is a good point, and certainly not one which is likely to be overlooked by any Government that comes afterwards.
Then there is the question of the air. Nothing is more damaging to your diplomacy than to find itself in a weak position in which it may be threatened without any power to assert itself. We have been in a false position owing to our insufficient Air Force. We are in a position of some peril without a proper Air Force, and I am glad to see reference to that in the King's Speech. In fact, the whole question of defence is one which wants careful study—not study which I believe will lead in the end to an increase of armaments, but study for this reason, that much as you may wish to cut down your armaments you cannot do it unless other people agree to join in the reduction of armaments, too. I agree that what we have to aim at is to bring that idea about, and to bring it about in the form of the League of Nations, which will be our deliverance from armaments in the end. But we have to get there first.
56 And now there is a criticism which I will venture to make upon what the noble Marquess said. It is all very well to say: "We have done this and done that, and we have been so diligent in negotiations and so active in pushing forward all proper claims"; but there is one defect which we have as a nation, and which there has not been much serious attempt to rectify of late years. We are extremely bad at making ourselves understood by other nations. We are very insular. We have insular minds, and it is not so easy for us as it is at least for some foreigners to make ourselves intelligible to other people. After all, whether you go to Paris, or Washington, or Berlin, or Rome, or even to Moscow, you find that men and women talk very much in the same way. They have the same ideas; they have far more in common than they have in difference. And it has always been our fault that we have not endeavoured to speak in the full and frank way in which Mr. Ramsay MacDonald spoke in the speech which he delivered in the Albert Hall the other day. More communication, more openness and, above all, more of what I will call the international mind, and more freedom in our intercourse with our neighbours—these are the things which, I believe, will do more to get over some of the difficulties with which we are faced than anything else.
Of course, I know that it is all very difficult, and that it must be very slow. The point I am making is that it is a feature in which I think our foreign relations have been defective in the past. Go where you will, you always find the same thing—that we are a people difficult to understand, suspected of having things up our sleeve, which we never have, and altogether sparing of ourselves in taking the trouble to get into the heart of other nations. If that ceased, and if the foreign policy of the Labour Government can do anything to make that less than it is at present, then I think it will have accomplished something worth doing. They have only 192 votes in the other House, and, even supposing a Labour Government came into office, I do not think your Lordships are in danger of anything revolutionary being passed in the form of Statutes—for, without the necessity of my taking care of things here, as the noble Marquess suggested, they will be taken care of elsewhere. But 57 there is a great deal that can be done and ought to be done in the way of administration.
This morning I read in The Times a letter written by Lord Esher on the subject of the reform of administration in this country. It is a subject to which very little attention has been given, and in regard to which the need of reform is very great. We waste money horribly by bad administration. A good deal of it might be cured, but there are some parts of it which we could not and do not want to cure. There are some odd ceremonies and institutions which have been handed down from antiquity and are our pride. I see a representative of one of them sitting near me, the noble Marquess, Lord Lincolnshire. He is the Lord Great Chamberlain, and responsible for the Palace of Westminster, but he is not appointed by any Government. Unlike the Lord Chamberlain—a wholly different official—he is not there by any popular voice; he holds by a different title. He holds an incorporeal hereditament which has descended to him from the time of William Rufus, and he is the traditional and lawful heir to whom that office has now descended. As Lord Great Chamberlain he exercises various functions which are extremely difficult to define in relation to those of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack and to other authorities who have the control of this House. But we do not complain. We put up with such inconveniences as there may be in order to keep up a great tradition which, after all, is as much esteemed by those who depend on us as by ourselves. It is administration of a different kind which wants looking into, and there is a good deal of it required.
If you take these things together—if you take the field of administration, if you consider what can be done in making ourselves more easy of access to foreign nations, if you take the whole area of reform which is urgently called for in order to bring the state of our laws and institutions up to the standard of the time, then there is ample field for a Labour Government to work in, without its being even tempted to do anything revolutionary. Its hands will be full if it does that. For my part, I have not the slightest fear that your Lordships will be put to those alarums of which we have heard something even this afternoon. The task is difficult enough, and it is very 58 likely that little of it may be accomplished, but at least it calls for the greatest effort we can make, for the way of contentment and the way of peace is the way of the redress of inequalities and injustices which afflict large numbers of your fellow countrymen without your being adequately aware of it. Our business is to inform ourselves fully and completely of these things, and then to do the utmost that lies in our power to bring about their reform.
§ THE EARL OF BIRKENHEAD
My Lords, the admirable but hardly laconic speeches which have adorned the debate in your Lordships' House to-night have brought our proceedings to a point at which your Lordships usually find it convenient to adjourn. But I am none the less hopeful that for a few moments I may be permitted to make some observations about the present position of politics, as revealed partially and incompletely by the King's Speech, and as it presents itself to my mind. For, in the five years during which I have been a member of this House I have never listened to a debate which had so little contact with reality.
The noble and learned Viscount who has just sat down has indicated to us in vague and nebulous language some of the benefits which he obscurely thinks may result from a Labour Government, if and when it is formed. He has spoken to us of housing conditions in Glasgow—housing conditions to which, give me leave to remind the noble and learned Viscount, I called attention when I was a member of the Opposition in the House of Commons, when Mr. John Burns, who did nothing for housing except use it for his perorations, resisted the appeal which I made. The noble and learned Viscount was then his colleague, and, instead of pointing out and insisting with his colleagues that these causes would breed that Socialism from which, if I read his obscure phrase aright, the noble Viscount to-day is to benefit, he remained in that majestic silence which, I know, to him is the most difficult of all poses.
And I am bound to make this further observation. The noble Marquess, with apprehension, has called attention to the possibility that alone the noble and learned Viscount may sit upon the front Government Bench. I would have reminded the noble Marquess, if at a moment like this it was my purpose to 59 challenge controversy with him, that I gave two repeated warnings in the last twelve months that this very crisis would find this House unreformed and unfit to he an instrument of Government. My warnings were treated with complete contempt. On two occasions I was told that in two years the Government would advise the House of Lords to reform itself, and in the meantime we have embraced an electioneering adventure which is likely to place a Socialist Government in power, with this House utterly unequipped to he even an instrument of government.
I raised an issue in this House which I hoped might have won the assistance of the noble Viscount, Lord Grey, for at least we had gained from a Coalition Government—the Government which he thinks so unwholesome—a measure of agreement in the Committee presided over by the noble Marquess, Lord Curzon, the Leader of the House, which gave us four vital things. We agreed upon the principle that we might have life Peers. We agreed that it should not be in the power of the Speaker of the House of Commons alone to determine what were the conditions of a Financial Bill—where, believe me, is the dynamite of your Socialist Government. We agreed that under the terms of the Parliament Act its own provisions could neither be extended nor modified. All that was swept away. All that would have been law to-day, with vital protection to the liberties of this House and to the liberties of the subject.
But those who were wiser swept the Government away. They said it was un-wholesome to ask for or to maintain any power of combination in men belonging to different Parties who in a period of great crisis were able to arrive at a large measure of mutual accommodation. It was swept away; it was unwholesome; its place was taken by the Die-Hards. Where have the Die-Hards planted the country to-day ? They have planted it in this position, that within three days without any protection to this House, with no reform, we are to have in power a Socialist Government. What is our compensation? We have the smooth and easy assurance of the noble and learned Viscount. Lest it should be thought that I entertain any opinion unfriendly to himself, let me make it plain that when I sat upon the Woolsack none of my predecessors 60 gave me wiser, more friendly, or more sympathetic help than he did, and if it were a mere question of technical efficiency I should indeed rejoice to see him sitting once again upon the Woolsack which, in technical equipment, he formerly adorned.
To what are we drifting? The noble and learned Viscount says that he sees no great peril in attempting the adventure of a Socialist Government, and I hope and believe that he will be a member of such a Government. Was the noble and learned Viscount on the platform of the Albert Hall a few nights ago? Did he support his new colleagues while they began the proceedings by singing the "Marseillaise" and concluded them by, singing "The Red Flag"? Did he hear Mr. Clynes—and the noble and learned Viscount will forgive me for saying that even Mr. Clynes is a more important member of that movement than he is—say : "We cannot attain our objects without the reform of the whole capitalist system"? The question which I ask of the noble and learned Viscount before your Lordships and before the country is this: Is he or is he not in favour of the socialisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange? That is the crucial and the final question. If he is, he is a Socialist. If he is not, he is indistinguishable in his political label from his old colleague who sits beside him on the Front Bench opposite to-day. I know perfectly well that the noble and learned Viscount will tell neither this House nor the country that he is a Socialist. Then what is his purpose in supporting a Socialist Government? He knows as well as every one of your Lordships knows that the whole spring of human endeavour depends upon an adequate motive being given to individual initiative.
What is the use of the noble and learned Viscount showering down snowstorms of words without contributing one single word on the only vital points which are engaging the attention at this moment of this House and of the country? There is not one of your Lordships who heard that speech who knows at this moment whether the noble and learned Viscount is a Socialist or not. I would gladly give way to him if he would tell me, because I would make some observations in further elucidation of his; but I know perfectly well that he will not tell me. He never 61 dealt in all his career in facts. He is incapable of dealing in facts. He is a muster of nebulosities. He is only really happy when he is dealing either with Einstein or Hegel. One cannot expect that anything concrete can come from him who, as I understand, is to lead the Labour Party in this House and to lead it without even being prepared to tell us whether he belongs to it or not. The noble and learned Viscount is a man of great resource. Never have I been prouder of the class to which I belong than I am at this moment. But I observe that cross-examination is not likely to lead to any profitable result as far as he is concerned and, therefore, I pass, with the permission of your Lordships, to another topic which I thought even more depressing and that was the contribution made to this debate by my noble friend Lord Grey.
The Leader of the House, extending I thought the kind, of indulgence which one always gives, and rightly gives, to those who move and second the Address in this House, said of the speech of the noble Viscount that it was important and far-reaching. I have the misfortune, and I must indicate the difference with courtesy, to differ from both his conclusions. I thought it neither important nor far-reaching.
§ THE EARL OF BIRKENHEAD
Well, I did not think it very remarkable either. I do not think it either remarkable or far-reaching, nor can I conceive of one single point upon which this House and this country required guidance on which it received the slightest tittle of guidance from the speech made by the noble Viscount. What did he say? He told us in relation to France—and we must receive him in this House as the mouthpiece of the Liberal Party—that he greatly desired to see our friendly relations increase and that he maintained great anxiety as to the position in the Palatinate. What help is that? We have known for four years that we, all of us, wanted to maintain friendly relations with France, and we have known for four years that there was always some one or other point upon which France was making it utterly 62 impossible at that given moment to maintain friendly relations. Then he says that our one hope is in relation to the League of Nations. What you must do, says he, in relation to the League of Nations is to embrace within its scope every European nation and then to arm it with coercive power. We have had four years of the League of Nations, and the only experience we have had up to the present is that all the nations in Europe are not included in it and that it never could have been a powerful League unless the United States of America were also included. The noble Viscount knows as well as I do that there is not the slightest prospect of the United States coming into the League of Nations. And as far as the nations of Europe are concerned, all those who belong to it, whenever they have a quarrel that they particularly care about, carefully withdraw it from the jurisdiction of the League of Nations. As to arming it with power and force, who is going to arm it with power and force? Has there been the slightest indication in the last four years that any great nation in Europe is going to arm it with force?
Let us deal with realities, not with theories. How are we going to assist the debate on this Address by this kind of talk, which was very fashionable and very contemporary and very much in vogue when President Wilson visited Paris five years ago, but it has passed far, far from the contemplation and the expectations of reasonable men? Let me put this further question to the noble Viscount who speaks on behalf of the Liberal Party in this House. He says that the policy of the Unionist Party, which was Protection, has failed. So it did fail—at this Election. I hold no post mortem. I do not attempt to distribute praise or blame for the circumstances in which that issue arose. Let me accept it from the noble Viscount in his own words and at his own valuation—Protection has failed as a remedy. What remains? What is the only other remedy that any other-Party put forward? The only other remedy was the Capital Levy. Does the noble Viscount accept that? What is his argument? He says, in effect, that "in accordance with Liberal belief, I shall vote against every Party which proposes anything with which Liberals do not agree." Is there anything in the King's Speech with which Liberals do not agree? 63 Was he able to call attention to one paragraph in the Speech with which he did not agree?
Nevertheless, the Liberal Party, as we are told, by Mr. Asquith, and, I gather, by the noble Viscount, is to take the supreme responsibility of placing in power in this country a Government pledged to the disruption of the whole of our existing system, with the knowledge that that Government has behind it in support only one-third of the electors of this country. And the only defence of the noble Viscount is that he is going to vote on behalf of Liberal principles. Liberal principles! What are Liberal principles? Where are they? In what document are they contained? By what statesman who uses intelligible language can they be understood? They were not in the programme which was put forward at the last Election, because the Liberal Party carefully abstained from putting forth any programme at all. The noble Viscount's programme is for the future. While Lord Haldane, as a Socialist, is determining the affairs of this country and of the Empire, what is the noble Viscount and his Party going to do? They are going to vote, in accordance with the fluid and undefined Liberal principles, against everything with which they do not agree.
Let us work this out. First of all, the noble Marquess is dismissed with contumely from the Foreign Office, and all his colleagues go with him. What happens then? Mr. Ramsay MacDonald comes in, I suppose. It will not be long before somebody moves some Amendment, for instance, to the re-edited King's Speech, "that this House disagrees with the principles of Socialism." The noble Viscount will then no longer find himself in conflict with us. The noble Viscount will say: "Those are not Liberal principles which we can support." Out goes Ramsay MacDonald, and then, I suppose, in come Mr. Asquith and the noble Viscount. Is it reasonable of the noble Viscount, who brings so much magnanimity to these considerations, to think that if he has already turned out the Conservatives in obedience to Liberal principles, and the Socialists in obedience to Liberal principles, there is any particular reason why either of the two other Parties, who do not think there are any Liberal principles at all, should support him?
64 Then what is going to happen to the country? The Liberal Party having turned both these other Parties out, presumably Mr. Asquith, or very likely the noble Viscount, will be sent for by the King. He will be asked: "What is your programme?" "Liberal principles." "Who support them?" "Mr. Asquith and I do." "Have you a majority?" "No." "How are you going to carry on?" These are the principles of statecraft which the noble Viscount, with his long experience of politics, recommends to this House. No more reckless gamble was ever undertaken by men who have held the responsibility of great office. I distribute neither praise nor blame for that which has happened, because the consequences are too serious. The results are these. At this moment two-thirds of the electors of this country would vote against Socialism, yet the noble Viscount and his friends, by a vote unparalleled in recklessness in the political history of this country, are to enable one-third of this country to destroy, if they so wish—as they can by administrative action—the whole balance and equipoise of this ancient State.
I have never concealed, and I will not conceal, my view that the adequate and final reply to this menace can only be found in a combination of men of all Parties who definitely range themselves in this controversy on the side of those who believe that the whole of our prosperity depends upon private initiative and private enterprise. The Liberal Party, by the decision which they have taken, have undertaken, in my judgment, a greater measure of responsibility than any Party in our long political history has ever taken, and in reaching that decision—I deliberately make this prediction—they have sounded the knell of the doom of the Liberal Party.
§ On question, Motion agreed to nemine dissentiente, and Address ordered to be presented to His Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.