HC Deb 07 November 1911 vol 30 cc1450-1

asked whether communications had passed between the Foreign Office and German Government relative to an alleged interview granted by a British Ambassador to an Austrian newspaper; and, if so, what was the purport or conclusion of those communications?


Two incidents have lately formed the subject of communications between His Majesty's Government and the German Government. One is the article published in an Austrian newspaper, and referred to in the question; the other is the report in the German Press of a speech delivered by my right hon. Friend who is now Home Secretary. The communications between the Governments have been of a more or less informal character, and it is unnecessary and perhaps would not be suitable to publish them; but I may say that they were not of a nature to cause any difficulty between the two Governments. I think, however, that it is desirable to state the facts. It was alleged, and in some quarters believed, that the British Ambassador at Vienna had been—through an interview or in some other way—a party to the publication of an article criticising German policy; it was reported that my right hon. Friend, then First Lord of the Admiralty, had in a public speech used language attacking German policy. Both these incidents were construed in Germany as a direct public and intentional affront to Germany on the part of a British Minister and a British Ambassador, and have given rise to great resentment. The facts are that the British Ambassador in Vienna was not in any way a party to the publication of the article complained of, nor had he any knowledge of it before its publication. My right hon. Friend did not use the language complained of in his speech; the passage in question was interpolated into the report of his speech from some entirely foreign source, and nothing of the kind was said by my right hon. Friend. I would express the hope, after these incidents, that public opinion will be on its guard against being carried away by false statements. Difficulties may, of course, arise from time to time between this country and others from a real divergence of policy at a particular moment. I believe that the Governments concerned will be able to overcome all such difficulties if facts are not exaggerated or distorted. But if false news is to be reported and believed, public excitement and resentment will some day get beyond what it is possible for Governments to control. There has been a tendency in individual organs of the Press, sometimes in Great Britain, sometimes in Germany, to put a sinister construction upon action taken, or supposed to be taken, by the German or British Government respectively in different parts of the world. I trust that, with the conclusion of negotiations now happily arrived at between France and Germany on the subject of Morocco, the tension that has given rise to suspicion and misconstruction in the British Press and the German Press will disappear. As has already been stated on behalf of the Government, both here and in another place, there will be an opportunity later on for a statement and discussion of foreign policy, and I shall hope then to deal more fully with this and other matters. It is impossible to deal with them adequately within the limits of a reply to a question.


Arising out of that reply, for which I feel sure the whole House will be grateful, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman if the assurances and explanations were cordially and quickly accepted by the German Government?


I do not think, after the full and considered statement I have given, my hon. Friend ought to ask me further questions. I would refer him to what I have already said in my answer, that any communications which passed were not of a nature to cause any difficulty between the two Governments.

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