HC Deb 27 November 1911 vol 32 cc43-165

I beg to move, "That the foreign policy of His Majesty's Government be now considered."

I propose, in moving this Motion, that the House do enter upon the consideration of foreign affairs, to restrict myself in the speech in which I move it to one subject only, but I do that, not with the intention or desire of in any way restricting the limits of the Debate. I do it because the subject with which I wish to deal—which is, indeed, as I consider it, the primary cause of this day being set apart for foreign affairs—the subject of the recent Morocco negotiations and our relations with France and Germany—is so important, so serious, and at the present time still so delicate that for me in my speech to attempt to travel over other ground and mix up other matters would be for me personally exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, if I am to do justice to the one subject I want to deal with first; and I venture to say, as far as my opening speech is concerned, it might even be inconvenient for the House. So I propose to restrict myself to that subject in my speech in moving the Motion.

Let me say to the House that, had it been possible, I would gladly have waited before saying anything here on the Morocco question until the conclusion of the discussion in the French and German Parliaments as to the negotiations for a settlement between their two countries. France and Germany are the two principals in the matter. The Reichstag, as I I understand, has not concluded its discussions, and the French Chamber has not yet begun its public discussions. But so much has been said in Germany already, especially by the recent disclosures of the German Foreign Secretary, that even at the risk of disturbing discussions which have still to take place in both France and Germany—a risk which I shall try to reduce to the smallest possible limit—I feel bound to make a somewhat full statement to the House. I wish to have every regard to the susceptibilities and difficulties of public opinion both in France and in Germany; but so much has been said about us in Germany in recent discussions that we must have some regard to our own public opinion, and I am sure it will be felt abroad that what has passed has made it impossible for us to postpone a full statement any longer. I am afraid I shall have to read to the House more than is usual in a speech, because I shall have to give an account of conversations which took place in the summer between myself and the German Ambassador. I want to make what I have to say about them as accurate as possible, and to do that it is necessary for me to read my own record of what actually took place.

The plan of what I propose to say to the House in my speech will be as follows: I propose to begin by a narrative, as clear as I can make it, of what passed between ourselves and Germany in the summer. I shall then proceed to examine what was the real ground of tension caused between Germany and ourselves by the Moroccan question. So much suspicion and gossip have collected in connection with this subject of tension in the summer that it is exciting men's minds and corroding their tempers, both here and in Germany, to a greater extent than ever before, though the crisis, whatever it was, is past, I shall endeavour to alleviate that not by belittling what was really serious, but by trying to give a true estimate of the situation. The third part of what I wish to say shall be general remarks on foreign policy, and a response to certain passages in the speeches of the German Chancellor that seem to me of hopeful augury for the future.

4.0 P.M.

If, in the earlier part of my statement, there seem to be some things which do not promise a hopeful or conciliatory development I would ask the House not to jump at conclusions, but to remember, when I am recounting what has been the difficulty in the way, I am doing it not in order to emphasise or to perpetuate it, but to get it out of the way. I will now begin the narrative part. The German Foreign Secretary has already made not a complete but a large disclosure of what has passed in conversations between the German Ambassador in London and myself in the summer. In diplomatic procedure it is very unusual to make public an account of conversations without first consulting the other party to them. I had no knowledge of what the German Foreign Secretary was going to disclose or that he was going to make any disclosure of these conversations until I read the report of them in "The Times." I understand that the exigencies of the situation in Germany made it impossible for me to be consulted beforehand, and I quite understand what the situation was. Had I been consulted as to the disclosures he made I should certainly have offered no objections, and I make no complaint now of their having been made. But, of course, they are not full disclosures. The German Foreign Secretary was presenting the case of his Government to the Budget Committee of the Reichstag. Here I have to give the complement of what he said by presenting our case, and I, of course, will do what he has done and disclose so much of these conversations as is necessary to put before the House the part which we took.

The German Chancellor and the German Foreign Secretary have already disposed of one misapprehension with regard to the Moroccan question. It was imagined in some quarters, I think I have seen it on the Paper of this House in a question put, that Germany had protested against the French action in going to Fez at all, and that France had persisted in going there in the face of the German protest. The German Government have now explained what the German view of the French going to Fez really was, and I have no comment or criticism to make upon what they said. I therefore begin my narrative not with the French expedition to Fez, but with the 1st July. On that day the German Ambassador came to the Foreign Office and made the following communication:— Some German firms established in the south of Morocco, notably at Agadir and in the vicinity, have been alarmed by a certain ferment which has shown itself among the local tribes, due, it seems, to the recent occurrences in other parts of the country. These firms have applied to the Imperial Government for protection for the lives of their employés and their property. At their request the Imperial Government have decided to send a warship to the Port of Agadir to lend help and assistance in case of need to their subjects and employés, as well as to protect the important German interests in the territory in question. As soon as the state of affairs in Morocco has resumed its former quiet aspect, the ship charged with this protective mission shall leave the Port of Agadir. That was accompanied by an explanation given to us at the same time which seemed to me much more important than the actual communication of the sending of the ship. The explanation given to us made it clear that the Moroccan question was being opened—the whole Moroccan question—by the sending of the ship to Agadir. It made it clear that the German Government regarded a return to the status quo in Morocco as doubtful, if not impossible, and that what they contemplated was a definite solution of the Moroccan question between Germany, France, and Spain. The whole question, or at least the kernel of the question, after that communication was received, was what was the definite solution of the Moroccan question which Germany contemplated? If a return to the status quo was doubtful, if not impossible, then the only alternative was a definite solution of the Moroccan question. What was the nature of that? What was clearly the objective Germany contemplated? Was it to be the partition of Morocco or what was it to be? That was what occupied our minds after receiving that communication. The communication was made to the Foreign Office on the Saturday. On the next Monday, the 3rd July, I asked the German Ambassador to come and see me. I informed him I had seen the Prime Minister, and that we considered the situation created by the dispatch of the "Panther" to Agadir as so important that it must be discussed in a, meeting of the Cabinet. I would say no more pending the meeting of the Cabinet, but I wished the German Government to learn at once that, in our view, the situation was serious and important. The next day, the 4th July, I asked the German Ambassador to come and see me again, and said that I must tell him—this was after the Cabinet meeting—that our attitude could not be a disinterested one with regard to Morocco. We must take into consideration our Treaty obligations to France and our own interests in Morocco. We were of opinion that a new situation had been created by the dispatch of a German ship to Agadir. Future developments might affect British interests more directly than they had hitherto been affected, and, therefore, we could not recognise any new arrangements that might be come to without us. I made it quite clear to the Ambassador that this communication, and the exact words which I used, were those of His Majesty's Government sitting in Cabinet.

After that there was a period of silence. The German Ambassador was not instructed to make any comment to me with regard to my communication, and we received no information from the German Government as to what their aims or desires were, or as to what they had in mind when they spoke of a definite solution of the Moroccan problem. Some information reached us from other quarters, leading us to apprehend that the settlement contemplated by the German Government might be a partition of Morocco, arrived at by negotiations to which it was not intended we should be a party. I think, in the German mind, it has sometimes been assumed that our agreement made with France in 1904 entirely disinterested us with regard to Morocco, and if Germany wished to make a new settlement with regard to Morocco, it was going out of our way and intrusive for us, having given by our agreement of 1904 a free hand to France in Morocco, as far as we are concerned—it was going out of our way and intrusive to interfere with any other Power wishing to make her own arrangements. That does not take full account of the agreement of 1904 made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. It is quite true we disinterested ourselves in Morocco politically, but we did it on conditions laid down—conditions both strategic and economic. What were the reasons of our being disinterested in Morocco? We have no jealousy of other Powers. It is obvious, if the Moroccan question was to be reopened and a new settlement made, unless we were consulted, unless we knew what was going on, unless we were in some way parties to the settlement, the strategic and economic conditions stipulated for between ourselves, France, and Spain in 1904 might be upset.

On the 12th July, the British Ambassador in Berlin had occasion to see the German Foreign Secretary on some minor matters, and took the opportunity to say that there had been at one time some mention of a conversation à trois between Germany, France and Spain, the inference being that we were to be excluded from it. The German Foreign Secretary told our Ambassador to inform us that there never had been any idea of such a communication; and, except for this negative communication, we had no further information from the German Government of their views. A little later it appeared in the Press that the German Government—and indeed it was the case—that the German Government had made demands with regard to the French Congo of an extent to which it was obvious to everybody who thought of it that neither the French Government nor the French Chamber could agree. That at once made me anxious as to the development of the situation. If Germany was going to negotiate with France an arrangement by which Germany received from France something in the French Congo and left France in Morocco as she is under our agreement of 1904, then of course we were prepared to stand aside and not to intrude, but if Germany, starting negotiations on that basis with France, made demands not for a portion, but for the greater part of the French Congo or anything of that kind, it was quite clear France must refuse those demands and negotiations would be thrown back on some other basis and the question of the possible partition would arise again. That is why I became anxious.

I therefore asked the German Ambassador to see me again on the 21st July. I said to him, I wished it to be understood that our silence, in the absence of any communication from the German Government—our silence since the Cabinet communication of the 4th July, and since the Prime Minister's statement of the 7th July in this House—our silence since then must not be interpreted as meaning that we were not taking in the Moroccan question, the interest which had been indicated by our statement of the 4th of that month. We knew that a rectification of the frontier of the French Congo had been proposed as a basis for negotiations with France. We thought it possible that a settlement might be come to between Germany and France on this basis without affecting British interests. We would be very glad if this happened, and in the hope that it would happen at a later stage we had hitherto stood aside. But I had been made anxious by the news which appeared the day before as to the demands which the German Government had made on the French Government; demands which were in effect not a rectification of the frontier, but a cession of the French Congo, which it was obviously impossible for the French Government to concede. I heard that negotiations were still proceeding, and I still hoped that they might lead to a satisfactory result, but it must be understood that if they were unsuccessful, a very embarrassing situation would arise. I pointed out to the German Ambassador that the Germans were in the closed port of Agadir; that according to native rumours they were landing and negotiating with the tribes, so that, for all we knew, they might be acquiring concessions there and that it might even be that the German flag had been hoisted at Agadir, which was the most suitable port on that coast for a naval basis. We could not say to what extent the situation might be altered to our disadvantage, and if the negotiations with France came to nothing, we should be obliged to do something to watch over British interests and to become a party to the discussion of the matter. The longer the Germans remained at Agadir the greater the risk of their developing a state of affairs which would make it more difficult for them to withdraw and more necessary for us to take some steps to protect British interests. I wished to say all this now while we were still waiting, in the hope that the negotiations with France would succeed, for, if I did not say this now, it would cause resentment later on if the German Government had been led to suppose by our previous silence—our silence since 4th July—that we did not take an interest in the matter.

The German Ambassador was not in a position to give me any information, but he deprecated the assumption that what I had sketched as the possible damage to British interests would be accomplished. He was sure that his Government had no intention of acquiring commercial monopolies, and unfairly prejudicing our interests. On this I observed that the fact that Germany remained in occupation of a closed port involved at least a monopoly of commercial opportunities. I had waited before saying anything further between the 4th July and the 21st July. I made that statement on the 21st July, because I was getting anxious because the situation seemed to me to be developing unfavourably.

The German Ambassador was still not in a position to make any communication to me from the German Government. In the course of that day, the 21st July, the Chancellor of the Exchequer told me that he had to make a speech on an occasion of importance at the Mansion House the same evening. He consulted the Prime Minister and me as to what should be said. It was fourteen days since the last public statement about Morocco had been made here, and that had been only the very short statement made by the Prime Minister in the House. We were anxious as to the way in which things were developing, and we all three felt that for a Cabinet Minister of first-rate importance to make a speech on a formal occasion and to say no word about Foreign Affairs after that interview would be misleading to public opinion here and everywhere. What I had said to the German Ambassador that day as to Agadir and the negotiations with France was obviously suitable only—I read it to the House now, because the German Foreign Minister has disclosed it, and there is no reason why it should not be said now—what I said to him that day as regards Agadir and the negotiations with France was obviously suitable only for diplomatic channels and not for public statement. The Chancellor of the Exchequer therefore made his speech in quite general terms. What he said is on record. He claimed no pre-eminence, no predominance for us in international affairs. It contained no menace, such as the saying of "Hands off!" to anyone anywhere. It did not say that there was any particular demand or claim on the part of Germany that was inconsistent with British interests. Its purport and its point was that where British interests were affected, we must not be treated as if we were of no account. If the time ever comes when this cannot be said by a Minister speaking in the position the Chancellor of the Exchequer was in then, we shall have ceased to exist as a great nation.

As a matter of fact, the first German comments on this speech that I saw in the Press were such as naturally might have been expected. One German Conservative newspaper said that if the word "Germany" were substituted for the word "England," the speech might have been made by a German Minister. The words of the speech were soon forgotten, and a sort of legend has grown up about them. For instance, a few weeks ago, I heard of one German who protested to an English friend of his and of mine against the speech, and was given a report of the speech to read. Having read it, he said that what was objected to in Germany was, not the speech itself, but the fact that it had been made at a moment when France and Germany were coming to terms, and that it upset the negotiations. The exact contrary is the truth as to the particular circumstances of the negotiations existing at the time. I was afraid, and I spoke to the German Ambassador because I was afraid, that things were developing in a way that would bring up the Moroccan question, force the Moroccan negotiations back, not upon an arrangement between France and Germany about the Congo and Morocco respectively, but upon something in the nature of a partition of Morocco, or some sort of solution which might make the question of British interests to be directly affected, and which would certainly directly bring into operation our Treaty obligations with France.

On 24th July, three days after the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the German Ambassador came to see me. He informed me that the German intention in sending a ship to Agadir had not changed. Not a man had been landed there. The German Government regretted the credence which was given to the insinuations as to the intentions of Germany that came from hostile quarters. Germany had never thought of creating a naval port on the coast of Morocco, and never would think of it. Such ideas were hallucinations. As to the negotiations with France, if the German demands were rather high his Government were ready to make concessions in Morocco as well as in Colonial matters; but the Chauvinistic tone of the French Press and a part of the British Press, menacing Germany with the interference of the friends of France, did not tend towards a settlement. I said that I was likely to be asked in Parliament what was happening at Agadir, and I should like to know whether I might say that the German Government had informed me that not a man had been landed. The Ambassador asked me to make no public statement with regard to this communication until he had had time to communicate with his Government. The next day, 25th July, the German Ambassador came to see me again, and told me that the information that he had given me on the previous day was confidential, and that the German Government could not consent to its being used in Parliament in view of the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He then made to me in regard to that speech a communication which has now been published by the German Government, and which I need not read in full to the House, because it has been in the Press here already, except to say about it that that communication was a strong criticism upon the effect of the speech upon the Press rather than upon the substance of the speech itself.

The communication, however, was exceedingly stiff in tone, and I felt it necessary—for, of course, I had not expected any communication of this kind—to say at once that as the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed to me to give no cause for complaint, the fact that it had created surprise in Germany was in itself a justification of the speech, for it could not have created surprise unless there had been some tendency to think that we might be disregarded. The speech had not claimed anything except that we were entitled to be considered as one of the great nations. It had claimed no pre-eminence, and it had not even indicated that there was a crisis. It dealt in general terms with remote contingencies. The German Government had said that it was not consistent with ther dignity, after the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to give explanations as to what was taking place at Agadir. I said to the Ambassador that the tone of their communication made it inconsistent with our dignity to give explanations as to the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Of course, by that I meant a public explanation. Explanations as to Agadir had already been given me by the German Ambassador, but it was the public explanation that the Government could hot consent to. Then I thought it right to say further on the question generally, knowing that the interests of France were involved as well as our own, and that it was the desire of France that the negotiations should go smoothly—I said to the German Ambassador that it was not intended, by anythng that had been said, or would be said here, to embroil the negotiations between Germany and France. On the contrary, we sincerely desired that they should succeed, but the tone of the German communication was unfavourable with regard to France as well as with regard to us, and made it more than ever evident that a very difficult situation would arise if the German negotiations with France should not succeed. There the matter was left by that conversation, and there it remained for two days, until the 27th July. Then the German Ambassador came to me again and made another communication from his Government, in conversation, so that I took down the words. The communication he made to me on the 27th July was this—I put it in the words I took down— We trust that Sir Edward Grey, by our very open and candid communication, has gathered the conviction that our pourparlers with France at the moment do not touch British interests. We trust to the Minister's great loyalty, that he has so often shown, that he will find it possible to state this fact in Parliament, without, however, giving any details of our confidential communication. We acknowledge with pleasure that the Minister has stated that he desires an agreement between Germany and France, and feel quite convinced that this will prove most helpful to the progress of the negotiations. But, having in view the wish expressed by Sir Edward, we cannot quite see how he can, in the present state of the pourparlers, describe our demands as obviously impossible, without knowing what we on our side have the intention to offer to France in the political and colonial territorial field. It is not possible in regard of the formal pledge of secrecy we have given— "We" means the German Government— to go into details; but as the territories to be eventually exchanged are exclusively German and French, we do not believe that special English interests could be touched, and that it seems advisable to leave it to the two parties immediately concerned to form an estimation of the value of the objects to be eventually exchanged. Adverse criticism from the English side must obviously render the negotiations more difficult. On the other hand, a public statement that England would be pleased to see a successful conclusion of the Franco-German pourparlers would have a most beneficial influence on an auspicious result, for which we most earnestly hope. We most seriously wish to diminish any points of friction we have with France in the colonial sphere, especially in Africa, and hope it may eventually be possible to make them disappear entirely. We could not look forward, even if this was done, to establishing intimate relations with France; but we believed that it would do away with a cause of frequently-recurring tension. If the wishes of England are in the same direction, the best way to help to bring about this result would be by having a calming influence on public opinion in France, which just now, by half-truths and inaccurate statements, has been brought to considerable excitement. The House will observe that the tone of that communication was exceedingly friendly, not only to ourselves, but to France. I at once expressed appreciation of the friendly tone in which the communication was couched. The German Ambassador and myself then had some further conversation of a general and informal kind, in the course of which he expressed some regret at the way in which our public opinion had been misled to adverse conclusions as to German action. I asked, on that, what else could have been expected, when the German Government suddenly sent a ship to Morocco, to a closed port, which was said to be the most suitable place on the west coast of Morocco for a naval base. Of course, this action has mobilised British public opinion. I also pointed out that, after I had made to him on 4th July a declaration on behalf of the British Government, we had had no communication from the German Government until 24th July, and even then their denial of any intention to establish a naval base had been in a form which I could not use to allay the suspicions which had been roused here. I suggested to the Ambassador, and he received the suggestion very cordially, that we should not pursue this point. I expressed the hope that this latest German communication might be taken as a new point of departure, and that we need not go back upon things which might lead to mutual recriminations. In the afternoon of the same day the Prime Minister made a statement in the House. That statement is on record, and anyone who reads that statement will, of course, see that the spirit in which we discussed the thing in public here corresponded to the spirit in which we had then been approached. From that date onwards there were no further difficulties between the German Government and ourselves about the Moroccan negotiations.

That is practically the end of my narrative part, and the comment I have to make upon it is this. In the disclosures made in the Reichstag by the German Foreign Secretary I find he has stated that the intention of taking a part of Morocco had never existed in Germany, as the Secretary of State—that is the German Foreign Secretary—distinctly stated at the time to a well-known Pan-German. Unfortunately, the gentleman in question did not believe it. If, after we had made the Cabinet statement to the German Ambassador on 4th July that intention had been confided to us as definitely as that, I think a good deal of misunderstanding might have been avoided. As regards the subsequent course of the negotiations, I need only say this. The French Government consulted us at every point where it seemed at all likely that British interests might be affected—most loyally at every point—and except perhaps once or twice on subsidiary points of purely economic detail in Morocco itself, we were able to say that British interests were not involved by the proposals or counter proposals made in the course of the negotiations between France and Germany, and everything we said or did in our communications with the French Government was in the direction of helping and not impeding the negotiations.

Now I come to the more general part. I propose to examine, as people will continue to discuss it, the real nature of the tension which existed. An agreement has now been reached between the French and German Governments, in which both sides have made substantial concessions and substantial gains. That this has been accomplished and peace between the two countries preserved, in the face of all the excitement which arose during the negotiations appears to us, who are onlookers, a fact very creditable to the diplomatists who negotiated the agreement, and not discreditable to the part which we ourselves had taken, though that was a subsidiary part. In spite of that, this is the moment chosen by some people to excite themselves, and as many others as they can, in Germany or here, by discussion of how near we came to war. There are really some people who seem to take delight in suggesting or forming the opinion, from whatever gossip or information they can get in any quarter, that we were near to war, and the nearer we came to war the greater satisfaction they seem to get out of it. I do not say we are peculiar in this respect at this moment. It is really as if in the atmosphere of the world there was some mischievous influence at work which troubles and excites every part of it. We are passing this year through a period of great excitement. It is so still. Some countries are in revolution, others are at war, and in several countries which are neither in revolution nor at war there are people who seem to delight in discussing how near they have been or are likely to be either to revolution or to war in the past, present, or the future. Really it is as if the world were indulging in a fit of political alcoholism, and the best that can be done by those of us who are in positions of responsibility is to keep cool and sober.

A speech has been made lately by the hon. and gallant Member (Captain Faber). I only refer to it because it really is the case that that speech has been forming the subject of discussion in the Budget Committee of the Reichstag in Germany, and, I am told on quite good authority, has intensified the bitterness of German feeling. Of course I know it is quite possible for us to reply that there are one or two speeches made in the German Reichstag—not official speeches—and the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Captain Faber) is not an official Member—which, if correctly reported in the paper, gives us just as much reason for saying here that our public opinion has been offended and intensified by the speeches made there. Of course, one speech leads to another. I can only do the best I can to try to alleviate the suspicions and excited talk by examining what the tension and apprehensions in the summer and on into September really were. Of course there was anxiety—diplomatic anxiety, not always, not constant, but intermittent—and at times considerable anxiety as to how the negotiations between France and Germany were to find a solution. They were very difficult for the two countries concerned in them, and had either of them broken off the negotiations—and there were times when it looked as if negotiations must reach a deadlock—had either abruptly broken off the negotiations it is very difficult to see what the next move would have been. We were in constant and intimate relations with France. We knew that France earnestly desired a settlement. We knew she would not break off negotiations abruptly. We did not believe that the German Government would do it either, though, of course, we were not in the same close touch with them, nor so cognisant of their view in the course of negotiations. Still there was the possibility that negotiations might be broken off, though I never thought the probability. I never expected anything abrupt, but it did look once or twice late on in the summer as if the negotiations might reach a deadlock. If they reached a deadlock, what was the next step to do? Naturally the next step, the next diplomatic step, would have been for some Power which was a party to the Act of Algeciras to propose a conference. That was the step we had in mind, the step we should have been prepared to take if the negotiations had reached a deadlock. But in July, before the last German communication that I read to the House, what I called a friendly communication, I had sounded the German Government as to whether a proposal for a conference would be acceptable if negotiations reached a deadlock, and the reply I had received from the German Government, though not absolutely conclusive, pointed to the fact that a proposal for a conference might not be acceptable. That was what gave rise for anxiety in the diplomatic situation. The natural step would have been a conference if there was a deadlock; the doubt remained whether such a proposal would be welcome to the German Government, and if unwelcome to the German Government, then of course things might have been made not better, but worse, for making the proposal.

Then the House will say, supposing all that had happened, supposing negotiations reached a deadlock, supposing a conference was proposed and Germany would not agree to it, what would have been the situation then? Then you would have had this situation. You would have had France, Germany, and Spain in occupation of parts of Morocco, a German ship at Agadir—because, of course, the German ship could not leave Agadir with negotiations unsettled—you would have had at any rate the beginning of a partition of Morocco without agreement between the three parties—France, Germany, and Spain—who were in occupation of different parts of Morocco. You would have had us no party to the negotiations at that time, and you would have had on record the statement made publicly by the Prime Minister here, and the statement made by the German Government on the 4th July that we could not recognise any settlement come to unless we were consulted. You had, at any rate, the prospect, if negotiations broke down, of a very strained diplomatic situation; and undoubtedly the period was from time to time one of tension, not as to what was going to happen in the next twenty-four hours, but tension because of the anxiety of what one saw might possibly take place. That I believe is as accurate and faithful an estimate as I can give—it is not a thing you can prove by documents—of the situation as it existed and of the amount of tension there was. I said I would not belittle what was serious, and I think I have not done so; but I would suggest that if that be accepted it is a statement of the truth of the actual facts of the situation which might be, and I think would be, disquieting and alarming if people had imagined that there had never been any great tension or serious difficulties, but which, considering the talk that now exists of the imminence of war, ought to be not alarming and disquieting but a sedative to the excited state of public opinion.

Now let me say something as to foreign policy generally. First of all let me try to put an end to some of the suspicions with regard to secrecy—suspicions with which it seems to me some people are torturing themselves, and certainly worrying others. We have laid before the House the secret Articles of the Agreement with France of 1904. There are no other secret engagements. The late Government made that Agreement in 1904. They kept those Articles secret, and I think to everybody the reason will be obvious why they did so. It would have been invidious to make those Articles public. In my opinion they were entirely justified in keeping those Articles secret, because they were not Articles which commit this House to serious obligations. I saw a comment made the other day, when these Articles were published, that if a Government would keep little things secret, a fortiori, they would keep big things secret. That is absolutely untrue. There may be reasons why a Government should make secret arrangements of that kind if they are not things of first-rate importance, if they are subsidiary to matters of great importance. But that is the very reason why the British Government should not make secret engagements which commit Parliament to obligations of war. It would be foolish to do it. No British Government could embark upon a war without public opinion behind it, and such engagements as there are which really commit Parliament to anything of that kind are contained in treaties or agreements which have been laid before the House. For ourselves we have not made a single secret article of any kind since we came into office.

Now let me say a word upon the general aspects of what I consider is the proper foreign policy of this country, and what the foreign policy of the Government has been. It is said to be, and in a sense that is quite true, a continuation of the policy of the Government in which Lord Lansdowne was Secretary for Foreign Affairs. Some years ago we had constant trouble and friction with France and Russia. Everybody remembers it. There were continual excursions and alarms, and more than once we were supposed to be on the brink of war with one or other of these two countries. I remember when I was Under-Secretary in the Foreign Office in 1893, there was much more abrupt talk of war about Siam, although I believe it would have been madness for the two countries to go to war about Siam in the light of what has happened since. It would have been madness and a crime. But for a short time there was great excitement on that point. An end has been put to all that as far as regards France and Russia. The late Government turned relations which had been those of friction and difficulty with France, not perpetual but intermittent, into relations of cordial friendship. The friendship which they made we have kept unimpaired. As far as there are records in the Foreign Office to give me any indication of Lord Lansdowne's intentions, I think he would have desired, had he remained in office to-day, something of the same kind with Russia. I do not say they had gone far, or that he had incurred any responsibilities or committed himself in the matter, but as far as I have any indications, that is the direction in which he would have gone. We have gone on in that direction, and what was accomplished with France has been accomplished with Russia. The relations have been changed from those of friction and difficulty into relations of friendship, and it is well that it has been so, because in different parts of the world British interests touch and rub against French and Russian interests, and where that is so, it is difficult to find a halfway house between constant liability to friction and cordial friendship. It is cordial friendship alone which provides sufficient mutual tolerance and goodwill to prevent difficulties and friction which would otherwise arise.

In addition to that, our friendship with France and Russia is in itself a guarantee that neither of them will pursue a provocative or aggressive policy towards Germany, who is their neighbour and ours. Any support we would give France and Russia in times of trouble would depend entirely on the feeling of Parliament and public feeling here when the trouble came, and both France and Russia know perfectly well that British public opinion would not give support to provocative or aggressive action against Germany. And the same considerations mutatis mutandis apply to France and Russia. We know perfectly well that neither of them wishes to pursue an aggressive or provocative, policy towards Germany, and if it were true, as is sometimes stated, in a portion of the Continental Press, that we had tried to make difficulties between France and Germany, or Russia and Germany, if it had not been our policy, and if they had not known it was our policy to smooth the path of their diplomatic relations with Germany, the friendship between them would not have endured. One of the essential conditions of the friendship of ourselves with France and Russia in the last few years has been the certain knowledge that neither they nor we wish to pursue a provocative or aggressive policy.

Now let me say this: German strength is, by itself, a guarantee that no other country will desire or seek a quarrel with Germany. That is one side of the shield of which Germans may well be proud, but I think it ought to be remembered by German public opinion that there is another side to the shield, and that is if a nation has the biggest army in the world, and if it has a very big navy, and is going on building a still bigger navy, then it must do all in its power to prevent what would otherwise be the natural apprehensions in the minds of others, who have no aggressive intentions towards that Power, lest that Power w[...] its army and navy should have aggressive intentions towards them. Germany is rightly proud of her strength. She is building a big fleet. Surely it is natural and obvious that the growth of that fleet must raise apprehensions, or at least make other nations very sensitive to apprehensions, lest the Power which is becoming strong should have aggressive designs towards themselves. I do not believe in these aggressive designs. I do not wish to have it interpreted in that sense, but I think it must be realised that other nations will be apprehensive and sensitive, and on the lookout for any indications of aggression. All we or the other neighbours of Germany desire is to live with her on equal terms.

There is one foreign policy different to the one which I have been endeavouring to sketch to the House, and it seems to me to be advocated in some quarters of the country. It seems to me to be simply disastrous. It is that we should give it to be understood that in no circumstances, however aggressively, provocatively, or wantonly, a friend of ours was attacked, we should give our friend any assistance whatever. That would be an attempt to revert to what was once called a policy of "splendid isolation." It would deprive us of the possibility of having a friend in Europe, and it would result in the other nations of Europe, either by choice or by necessity, being brought into the orbit of a single diplomacy from which we should be excluded. The ideal of splendid isolation contemplated a balance of power in Europe to which we were not to be a party, and from which we were to be able to stand aside in the happy position of having no obligations and being able to take advantage of any difficulties which arose in Europe from friction between opposing Powers. That policy is not a possible one now. Any single Power that attempted to adopt that policy in Europe to-day would be felt as a public nuisance, and if we were that single Power, one result would be that in the course of a few years we should be building warships not against a two-Power standard, but probably against the united navies of Europe. As a matter of fact that policy, which would be disastrous, is not a policy. It is the negation of policy, and if it were accompanied, as I suppose it would be accompanied, with constant criticisms of individual Members of the House about the internal affairs and proceedings of other Governments, constant pressure upon the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of the day to interfere and make representations about matters which do not directly concern us, then I say that the disastrous consequences of such an attitude of mingled interference and drift would soon become apparent in an expenditure on armaments, even, greater than the present expenditure, and sooner or later the very peace that people desired to preserve would topple over. Such an attitude would not even gain us the friendship of Germany.

One does not make new friendships worth having by deserting old ones. New friendships by all means let us make, but not at the expense of the ones we have. I desire to do all I can to improve the relations with Germany, as I shall presently show. But the friendships "which we have have lasted now for some years, and it must be a cardinal point of improved relations with Germany that we do not sacrifice one of these, and what I desire—and what I hope it may be possible to have, though it may seem difficult at the present time—is that the improved relations may be such as will improve, not only ourselves, but those who are our friends. We keep our friendships. We intend to retain them, unimpaired, and the more we can do, so long as we can preserve that position, so much the better, and we shall endeavour to do it. That is an essential condition. Is the policy I have sketched out necessarily a bar to good relations with Germany? I do not believe it is. They say in Germany—I only take the opinions that are reported and as they appear in the Press in Germany—that it is part of our policy always to stand in Germany's way and object to Germany's expansion. It is unfortunate that the Morocco question has come up so often. But that is a special case by itself, where we have a special agreement and have special interests, to which we attach importance, which are set out in the agreement; but in my opinion—though I do not speak for more than myself personally when I say this—the wise policy for this country is to expand as little as possible, and certainly no further the African possessions.

I do not say that there are not—of course there are—certain parts of Africa lying absolutely contiguous to British possessions, especially to those of the Government of the Union of South Africa, which, if there were territorial changes, we could not see pass into other hands; and if there are great territorial changes there are no doubt other things close to British territory in the nature of frontier rectification. If there are to be changes brought about by the goodwill and negotiation with other Powers, then we are not an ambitious competing party, and, not being an ambitious competing party ourselves, if Germany has friendly arrangements to negotiate with other foreign countries, we are not anxious to stand in their way. I believe that is the wise policy for this country, and if it is the wise policy, not to go in for great schemes of expansion ourselves, then I think it would be diplomatically and morally wrong to indulge in a dog-in-the manger policy with regard to others. I think, indeed, the House may see something of that sort in the recent negotiations.

5.0 P.M.

What was Germany's great objective, as I gather, in the later stages of the negotiations with France the other day? To obtain access to the Congo and Ubanghi. I have already said to the House we never for a moment demurred to that or put forward any plea of British interests. We have facilitated, so far as it lay with us to do anything, the negotiations. The German Chancellor recently made two speeches. He naturally presented the German view, and they were addressed mainly to German public opinion. I willingly recognise that in both those speeches of the German Chancellor, though he had a difficult situation to deal with, and those speeches put the German view of the case, he was studiously careful to avoid saying anything that might offend British public opinion; and if I may speak freely about those speeches of the German Chancellor, I would say that, while upholding the German view of the particular case, the tone-and spirit of them were such as to inspire us with a belief in his desire to see his country strong, but not aggressive. If that is the spirit of German policy, then I am sure that in two or three years the talk about a great European war will have passed away, and there will have been a growth of goodwill, not only between Germany and England, but between those two countries and the friends of both. There is a great responsibility upon the British Government and the German Government, and upon other Governments, to make the tone and spirit of these speeches, especially of the second speech, of the German Chancellor, prevail in the years which are immediately before us.

Do not let us imagine that we can force the pace at this moment in improving relations with Germany. We cannot compel suddenly, after the friction of the last few months, the favourable breeze of public opinion, either in Germany or here. At present the breeze is anything but favourable. Sometimes the breeze may be so adverse that the Governments, however well disposed, may not be able to pursue a favourable course without tacking. But what we want is not to cease to steer a favourable course, and to steer it straight ahead whenever we can. I say that on the assumption that that is the desire of the German Government too. It is certainly the natural inference from the tone and spirit of the speeches of the German Chancellor. If that is his assumption, then we shall respond to it, and in some ways, though public opinion may be adverse at the present moment excited as it recently has been, in some ways one can already see that the horizon is brightening. The German Chancellor said, in one of his two recent speeches, that Morocco is like a continually festering wound in German relations not only with France, but also with England, and that, in virtue of Treaty stipulations, England stood ever on the side of France—at least diplomatically—in all Moroccan difficulties between Germany and France. So that, as a matter of fact, the German understanding with France as to Morocco also cleaned the slate in respect of German relations with England. I welcome that statement, because the German Chancellor includes France and England in it, and I would now read for the House what I said to the German Ambassador in London on the 6th of this month, when he communicated to me the text of the agreement between Germany and France, and told me that his Government asked our support of it, as both Governments had agreed to do. They had, of course, agreed to ask the other Powers, who are parties to the Act of Algeciras, to support the agreement.

I replied that I would examine the agreement which I had not yet studied as a whole since it was signed, although the French Government had kept us informed of it during the progress of negotiations. I would, however, at once express my great satisfaction at the conclusion of the negotiations. Count Wolff-Metternich would remember that when the agreement of 1909 between Germany and France as to Morocco had been made, I had expressed great satisfaction on the assumption that the difficulties about Morocco were over, because the difficulties about Morocco were sure to throw Germany and ourselves into opposite diplomatic camps. If, as I had hoped, and must apparently be the case, the present agreement between Germany and France was a permanent settlement of the difficulties as to Morocco, it would be most satisfactory to us. It might be a little time before public opinion had calmed down sufficiently to realise the full consequences of it; but its effect must be to relax the tension and remove a great obstacle from the path of European diplomacy.

The discussion upon the agreement has not yet concluded. I have had no difficulty in speaking to the House on (this subject and discussing the matter fully with them. What I have dreaded has been the risk of introducing into the discussion in either Germany or France anything of a nature to disturb the discussion of their own settlement of their own relations with each other. Whether I have altogether been able to avoid that risk I cannot yet say. It was a risk that had to be taken, because what is due to the House of Commons here. The Anglo-French Agreement of 1904 as to Morocco, with which certain arrangements with Spain are intimately connected, was a great element in the foundation of our friendship with France. It has since then continued unimpaired to the mutual satisfaction of each party, I believe not only of the Governments but also of the peoples of the two countries. During the last seven years, throughout all the strain of diplomatic discussion, closely connected as it has been with that agreement, the two Governments have held to it in letter and spirit, and during all this time our diplomatic relations have been intimate and cordial. If, as I hope is the case, the Franco-German Agreement as to Morocco has secured for France the great position in Morocco which recent events have made it quite clear must be held by some European country, and which France, in the interests of her Colonial Empire, could not allow to pass into hands other than her own; if it has also removed the great obstacle in the smooth path of the diplomacy of the greatest nations of Europe, then the Anglo-French Agreement as to Morocco will become, when the necessary adjustments have been made with Spain, not an active but a passive factor in the relations between the two countries. But I trust that the fact that we have with France during the last seven years gone hand-in-hand through a great deal of rough diplomatic weather, without for a moment losing touch with each other, will have its influence in perpetuating in France and here confidence in our mutual good faith and goodwill, our intention to keep in touch.

It would be presumptuous and invidious for me to appraise, or to attempt to appraise, the merits of Germany and France respectively over the bargain they have made about Morocco and the French Congo, and the comparative value of their gains and losses, or I would call it the gains and concessions to each that they are now engaged in discussing. Each Government, the French Government and the German Government, is defending the agreement before its own public opinion; each Government, the French Government and the German Government, finds critics in France and in Germany. It is difficult perhaps for us at the time, and it is still more difficult for France and Germany, to see the wood for the trees at the moment. But a few years hence I believe that today's estimate, whatever it be in France or in Germany, of the balance of losses and gains of each country respectively in the recent negotiations will seem a comparatively small matter. The great matter will be that Morocco will no longer trouble the peace of Europe. For years that question of Morroco has been the discomfort of diplomatists. There was a risk in leaving it unsolved. We all knew that. It was left unsolved because there appeared to be even a greater risk in attempting to find the solution. I trust that now a solution has been found. The part we have played has been a subsidiary one. The credit belongs to France and to Germany, the two principals. But for us to have taken less interest than we have done would have been to fall short of due care of British interests, and to fail in being honourably consistent in the fulfilment of Treaty obligations with France. If this settlement between France and Germany receives the approval of both nations it ought to secure that the Moroccan question has been honourably and permanently settled without breaking the peace of Europe. If that is so, then I do claim with confidence, as against critics, whether at home or abroad, that the part His Majesty's Government has taken has contributed, and contributed materially, to the realisation of that expectation, and I trust that that will be the general sense of the House.


The speech to which we have just listened, a speech delivered in circumstances of great difficulty and great delicacy, must have made every Member in the House who desires to take part in the discussion realise, as I do, that we have some share in that sense of responsibility which is felt by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Grey). The circumstances of the times in which we live, to which he has alluded, teach us the same lesson. The year which is now drawing to a close, as he has pointed out in his speech, has been so crammed with great events that it almost seems as if our power of sensation were dead. But unless I am mistaken the historian will look back on this year as one memorable in the whole history of the world. Look, for instance, at what is going on in Persia—events which pass almost unnoticed, but which a few years ago would have filled all our minds. There has also been that outbreak of war to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, an outbreak so sudden and so unexpected. But as on that subject he has said nothing, and as I do not desire to travel beyond the ground which he has covered, I should say only this, that it is well for us who are Members of the House of Commons as a nation to remember that we are united to both countries by ties of traditional friendship and real sympathy, and that it is not for us, while the war is still in progress, to takes sides. There has also been, though I shall not refer to it, that tremendous upheaval in the oldest civilisation in the world, which may perhaps produce lasting results, not only on what we call the unchanging East, but on the whole history of the world. These things have happened, but with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman still fresh in our minds, we have to think, not only of what happened, but of what might have happened during this year. Speaking under these conditions, when I really feel—I am not using the phrase as a kind of cheap rhetoric, but because I do feel it—that we have been living under the shadow of a volcano from which lava has been already flowing, the House will understand that I am much more anxious to avoid doing harm than hopeful of saying anything which can do good. While, however, that is the feeling uppermost in my mind, I wish to say also that, in my judgment, to speak frankly is not to speak indiscreetly, and the speech which the right hon. Gentleman has just delivered is, in my opinion, the best proof of the truth of that remark. What, therefore, I have to say, I intend to say quite frankly. My first duty is to say that the change in the leadership of our party makes no change in our attitude on foreign politics. That assurance is really not necessary, for Lord Lansdowne, who was Foreign Secretary in the late Unionist Administration, is the leader of our party in another place, and I shall, of course, always consult him, as I have consulted him to-day, before making any statement on foreign affairs. During the six years we have been in opposition, I think, as a party, we have really the right to look back with satisfaction, and even with pride on the fact that we have never under any circumstances tried to gain party advantage from the discussion of foreign affairs. That has been our policy; that always will be our policy. That does not mean that we shall never under any circumstances criticise the foreign policy of the Government; but it does mean, it means most emphatically, as far as we are all concerned, that we shall never criticise it for the sake of party advantage. And it means more—it means that we shall never criticise them even when we think they are wrong, if we believe that there is any danger of our criticism weakening our position among the other great nations of the world. May I venture to say something more? I do so with some hesitation. Changes do occur, and it is possible that we in this House may some day change places. I do not prophesy, but if that should ever happen—and the impossible is always the imminent—I am glad to think that the right hon. Gentlemen whom I see on that Bench will in all human probability have in their hands for many years the destinies of the great party to which they belong, and I think that they may perhaps remember what our attitude has been, and I am sure that they will remember what the difficulties and the dangers of the position are, and will strive, as we have striven, to keep foreign politics out of the scope of our party politics.

There is nothing either in the statement or in the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman which I wish to criticise, and there is very little that I desire to say anything about. There are, however, of course, one or two things I should like to say. We are all thinking a great deal about our relationship with Germany. It is an idea prevalent, especially on the Continent, that there is in this country a feeling of hostility to Germany. In my opinion that belief is entirely unfounded. So far as I am concerned—the House will acquit me of egotism in making these remarks; I am sure they will recognise that I make them only because I happen to be the Leader of the party behind me, and because also I think I can express the view of the great mass of our countrymen—so far as I am concerned, I never had, and certainly have not now, any such feeling. During my business life I had daily commercial intercourse with Germany. I have many German friends, I love some German books almost as much as our favourites in our own tongue, and I can imagine few, if any, calamities which would seem so great as a war, whatever the result, between us and the great German people. I hear it also constantly said—there is no use shutting our eyes or ears to obvious facts—that, owing to divergent interests, war some day or other between this country and Germany is inevitable. I never believe in these inevitable wars. Prince Bismarck once said, and said truly, that no man can overlook the hand of Providence. I am myself old enough to remember that twenty-five or thirty years ago the same thing was said far more persistently about our relationship with Russia. It is never said now. Why? For one reason, because the whole perspective of the world has changed. It is constantly changing, and I see no reason to think that ten or fifteen years hence it may not completely change again. If, therefore, war should ever come between these two countries, which Heaven forbid! it will not, I think, be due to irresistible natural laws; it will be due to the want of human wisdom. But neither men nor nations are always wise, and in my belief the best, perhaps the only absolute security for peace, is that each country should realise always the strength of the other, and should realise, too, that whatever may be the domestic differences, from whatever party in either country the Government may come, each nation is prepared to defend to the last her rights and her honour.

I am glad, as the right hon. Gentleman has pointed out, that it has been possible to publish the secret articles in the Treaty made by the last Unionist Government in 1904. That was very desirable, for the impression had grown up that these articles imposed obligations upon us which extended beyond the scope of the published Treaty. Such an extension, in my opinion, would never under any circumstances be justified—an extension of that kind—and, of course, there was no such extension. The right hon. Gentleman has just told us, and we are glad to hear it, that there is no extension of our obligations by any secret arrangement of any kind whatever.

We are all glad to hear it. But he has convinced me, and I believe he has convinced the House, that every step which was taken during the events of last summer was taken with sole regard to British interests. I do not know whether it is worth while to go into the points on which the right hon. Gentleman dwelt, but it must be evident to everyone—certainly there is nothing aggressive in saying this—that the sending of a German warship to Moroceo did alter the whole situation, did alter it so completely that we had to remember again what out interests were in that country, and that those interests justified us in having a say in any settlement that might be made. The right hon. Gentleman has, I think, shown more than that. What our interests are at any given moment must depend on the circumstances of that moment, must depend on circumstances of which we, who are not in the secrets of the Government, cannot be aware. But this is obviously true—and the right hon. Gentleman has largely dwelt upon it—that the Treaty with France, the entente, and the Agreement with Russia which followed upon it, and which he is quite correct in saying was always the aim of Lord Lansdowne when he was Foreign Minister—that those two agreements have been of immense advantage to this country. They have saved us from causes of friction which, as we all well remember, seemed constantly to threaten war. But they have been good not only for the countries which were directly concerned, but they have been, in my opinion, equally of advantage to the whole of the world, for they have tended to secure the peace of the whole world.

But we cannot have advantages without corresponding obligations, and I think I am justified in saying—it has been both said and implied by the Foreign Secretary—that it never can be the interest of Great Britain to disregard the obligations of Great Britain. This publication of these secret Articles suggests a subject which has occupied a good deal of space in some of the newspapers, and that is the secrecy with which foreign affairs are carried on. That is a large subject which has often been discussed in this House, but in regard to which I shall say only two things. In the first place, it is obvious that at some stages negotiations can only be carried on in private, but in the second place in any country, and most of all in a country like our own, where the Government depend for effective action upon the support of public opinion, the more the people can be taken into the confidence of the Government the better. In other words, wherever secrecy is not necessary, secrecy is bad, but of the necessity for it the Government, and the Government alone, must be the judge. It may be said, and I have seen it suggested, that because it is the practice in the House of Commons for the official Opposition to ask for time to discuss foreign affairs, they therefore should share the responsibility. That is not so. The leaders of the Opposition can never know the circumstances, difficulties or dangers of the situation at any given moment, and it is rarely, if ever, that they would be justified in trying to dictate the time when foreign affairs should be discussed in this House.

What I have said about foreign affairs in general is equally true about secret Treaties. If secret Articles are not necessary they are bad also, but nobody can deny that they are sometimes required. Let some of us throw our minds back to seven years ago. Let us remember how sensitive and susceptible the French were in regard to Egypt; and no one can doubt that the publication of these secret Articles at that time might have endangered the whole value of the agreement. Now, however, they can be published without the smallest danger of arousing the sensibility of that nation. I see no object in going over the interesting statement of the right hon. Gentleman. There are only two distinct points in it to which I wish to refer. I have carefully studied, as we all have, on account of what has taken place, what has led to this discussion. There was, in the account of the right hon. Gentleman, a most serious gap. That gap consisted in a complete lack of information as to what happened between the days that the German Government informed us that they were sending a ship to Agadir and the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is certainly not my duty to emphasise the differences in the two narratives, or to call attention to omissions in the narrative of the German Chancellor. I shall only say that in my judgment that gap has been filled, and satisfactorily filled, by what the right hon. Gentleman has said.

There has also been, and it is not surprising, a great deal of criticism both at home and abroad about the intervention of the right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) in these negotiations. The Foreign Secretary has, of course, defended his colleague. Defence from him was not necessary, for no one supposes that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have made a statement like that without the full knowledge and full approval both of the Prime Minister and of the Foreign Secretary. Defence from him was not necessary, and it certainly is not my business to defend the right hon. Gentleman. Indeed, on the face of it, I am bound to say that his intervention seemed undesirable. While I am going to say no more, I do not end here. On the face of it, it would have seemed to be a more natural thing for the Prime Minister to choose an opportunity, which could easily have been found in the House of Commons, of making the necessary statement through either himself or through the Foreign Secretary. I think that is obviously a natural reflection, but since I do not criticise the policy of the Government as a whole, since I believe that that policy was right, and that if the same circumstances were to occur again, that they would be bound to act in precisely the same way, since I approve of their policy, I certainly am not going to condemn the methods by which they have carried it out, and successfully carried it out. There is, I am bound to say, a good deal to be said for the defence of the right hon. Gentleman which has just been made.

In addition to the strong ground, the unanswerable ground, taken by the Foreign Secretary, there are two things that we may keep in mind in regard to it. In the first place there was nothing objectionable either in form or substance in what was said by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. That was admitted by the German Chancellor, whose speech, and especially the second one, showed a high-minded moderation in my opinion in trying circumstances which deserves all praise. The German Chancellor quoted an extract from a German newspaper, which the right hon. Gentleman read out, to the effect that a similar speech could have been made quite legitimately by a German Minister. In the second place, there is no part of our constitutional practice which is more fundamental or better understood than the doctrine of Cabinet responsibility. That also was recognised by Dr. Von Bethmann-Hollweg, and he pointed out to those who were irritated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer's intervention that all that he had done was to express the views of the Cabinet of which he was a member. Any Cabinet Minister speaks not for himself but for his Government, and if that is true of any Cabinet Minister it must be still more true of a Minister who occupies the weight not only of his official position, but which from his influence is possessed by the right hon. Gentleman. I say it is not a desirable precedent, but certainly I do not think it is ground for any serious condemnation of the action of the Government.

But there is something else bearing on this which I think ought to be said, which the right hon. Gentleman did not say, and which I do not think he will thank me for saying. In this House, at the end of July, my right hon. Friend who was Leader of the Opposition did, I believe, a great public service by making it quite plain that in this matter the Government had behind them the support of the Opposition. That was not enough. I want to say this as nicely as I can, but it is rather difficult. There is a proverb to the effect that "it takes all kinds of people to make a world," and, if it were not impossible, I should be inclined to say that it takes even a greater variety to make up the party opposite. There is a suspicion that there is a section of that party, and perhaps a section of the Cabinet, which not only loves peace, as I certainly do, but who, whether they would admit it or not, love peace so much that they could not under any circumstances believe that a war could be either just or necessary, and who would be certain to thwart any policy which seemed to have as a possible result a war in which this country was engaged. There is such a suspicion, everybody knows it, not only abroad, but at home there is such a suspicion. It it was the object of the Government to convince not only foreign countries, it was just as important to convince us at home. If it was the object of the Government, as it ought to have been, to convince everyone that on this question in these critical times there was an absolutely united Cabinet, I can imagine no better method of effecting that object than by the selecting the Chancellor of the Exchequer to do it.

I do not think that it is part of my duty, because I occupy the position I do in this House, to take up time when I have nothing special to say. There is no object in going over the interesting narrative of the right hon. Gentleman, and as regards the closing part of his speech, the part in which he outlined what in his view ought to be the principles of British foreign policy, I am not sure it will make his policy more popular in some quarters of the House, but I am bound to say I entirely agree with him, and there is nothing which I desire to add to it. There is undoubtedly in Germany a feeling that we in this country wish to act like the "dog in the manger" in the way of German ambition. To what extent that feeling exists I do not think any of us have any means of judging. We ought, at all events, to remember this always, that whatever expressions unfavourable to this country are found in the German Press, are precisely the expressions which are sure to be reproduced in the Press of this country. We have to remember also that a general election is imminent in Germany, and no one should understand better what the influences and what the temptations of a general election are than we who are Members of this House. I say nobody knows what the extent of that feeling is. For what it is worth, I have never found among Germans with whom I have come into contact, and who are mainly engaged in business, any such deep feeling of hostility towards this country, but, Sir, in any case, whatever their views, I do not think you could find any prominent public man in this country, to whatever party he belonged, who shows any such feeling.

We all rejoice that this Morocco settlement seems to be going to be carried through. We all trust and believe that it will remove one ground of possible friction between us and Germany, and we desire nothing more than that every ground of friction, so far as it possibly can be done, should be removed in the same way. We do not grudge Germany, to use an expression which is constantly found in statements, her place in the sun. We do not wish to stand in the way of her legitimate aspirations, and we shall never show ourselves anxious to block her path merely to prevent her becoming a greater nation than she is. We shall never do so. The right hon. Gentleman made another statement with which I also agree. He pointed out quite truly that we do not desire to extend our Empire further. Speaking of the possibility of the future, every man must make reservations, and I think the reservations which were made by the right hon. Gentleman are sufficient for me. I say without any hesitation that we do not desire accessions of territory, and in saying that I am not speaking for one small section of the House. I believe I am speaking for the nation at large. We do not desire accessions of territory. Our responsibilities are great enough already. We have no wish to increase them. The one wish by which all my Friends behind myself are actuated, and I believe it is true of every man, it is true of the whole nation, our one desire, our one ambition, is not to enlarge but to build up our Empire.


I am afraid that in respect to the pious opinion in favour of continuity of foreign policy, I am somewhat of a heretic. It all depends on what you are continuing. If the foreign policy which you have inherited from your predecessors is a bad foreign policy, I am bound to confess I see no virtue in carrying it on. May I give the House an example? When the present Government came into office, it inherited a condition of affairs in South Africa which its predecessor had evidently no intention of put ting an end to hurriedly, but it has been its greatest declaration that so far from continuing that disastrous policy it took the very first steps to put an end to it. What is true of South Africa is true of the Continent of Europe, and it is true of Asia. I am no believer in the continuity of foreign policy. I think whatever criticism we may make on the Government in respect to its foreign policy, must begin largely by a reflection on that particular point. His Majesty's Government has been too loyal in its dealing with Lord Lansdowne's policy. I think it has carried that to extremes. I am not going to go over the whole field of the policy mentioned and partly outlined by the Foreign Secretary this afternoon, because I understand that it is the desire of the House, for some time at any rate, to concentrate its attention on Germany. I welcome, and I am sure everyone of my colleagues welcome, most heartily every and any friendly references to Germany at the present moment. I do not want to minimise the friendly character and the friendly phrasing of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. But I feel certain that if the nation spoke, if we could concentrate public opinion at the present moment in the voice of one man addressing this House, the references to Germany would be even more cordial than the references we have had this afternoon. I do not say that those references were not cordial. I do not wish to give that impression. I think they were cordial; but more enthusiastically cordial would have been the expressions had the public opinion of this country been allowed to address the House to-day. I, at any rate, feel very proud and very pleased to be a Member of the party the equivalent of which in the German Reichstag has done more than any other party to re-establish good feeling between Germany and ourselves. When the disastrous effects of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's speech were at their height, the German Social Democrats told the German people to wait for explanations. Only the other day Mr. Bernstein, speaking for the German Social Democrats, allayed German excitement and feeling, not only by suggesting that there was an explanation, but by giving substantially the explanation which the House has had this afternoon.

Never has there been a more admirable illustration of the good services of publicity in diplomacy than we have had here. We have forced, first of all, the German Foreign Secretary to make his statement. That statement was imperfect in two respects: it did not tell all that took place here, and it did not tell what was taking place in Paris and Berlin at the same time. The right hon. Gentleman has not been able to fill in the second part to-day, but he has filled in the first part. He has told us, and he has told Germany, that certain things did happen at the beginning of July which were not reported in the Budget Committee of the Reichstag. I feel perfectly certain that the result of that statement will be to allay German feeling, and to make the German people understand more clearly than they have been understanding that England did not necessarily put herself in their way during the recent Moroccan troubles; and when the German people do understand that and get that clearly into their minds, I believe we will be in a position to start afresh in our good relations and friendly feelings. I do not quite understand, however, what the general point of view of the Foreign Office is. We are told that we are going to continue our friendship with France and with Russia. Why? What is the friendship? What are the obligations? With reference to Russia, we have had the explanation given in previous Debates in this House. In preparation for this Debate I have glanced down some of the speeches made on those occasions. The explanation then given for friendship with Russia was that if only we would stand by Russia, Russia would go on liberalising her institutions. Not only that, but I remember very well how, on a certain occasion when my colleagues and I sat on the benches opposite and raised a Debate with reference to the Reval visit, we were told that a certain manifesto had been issued by the Duma rather reflecting on our good judgment in raising the Debate, and the House were told that it was essential to Parliamentary Government in Russia that we should show friendship in the most emphatic way possible. What has happened? One of the very first signatories to that manifesto, Professor Melinkoff, only a few weeks after he had signed it, had an inkpot thrown at his head because he made the same statement on the floor of the Duma itself.

The whole justification for our friendship with Russia lies in the liberalising of Russian institutions—and that has not happened. As a matter of fact, one of the results of our pro-Russian policy has been to encourage the Russian bureaucracy to stamp out Parliamentary institutions as much as they possibly can in Russia. Things have gone back from the Parliamentary point of view rather than forward on account of the friendship we have shown to Russia during the last five or six years. With reference to our present relations with Russia, how far are they going to carry us? The right hon. Gentleman told us that we had no secret understandings, no secret treaties, no secret obligations of any kind whatever. I am bound to confess that the present position of affairs in Persia—which I am not going to discuss, but which I believe other Members desire to consider in detail—give one a justification for suspecting that there is an understanding with Russia going much further than anything which has been published. Is our friendship with Russia going to carry us to the extent of being willing to crush out Persian nationality? Is our friendship with Russia of such a character as to compel us to agree to a partition of Persia? Is it of such a character as to compel us to agree to the obstacles which Russia is placing in the way of Persia's establishing herself once more on a sound financial position? Are we bound by our agreement with Russia to support her in the action which she has taken with reference to Mr. Shuster? I am bound to say that if our friendship with Russia entails and involves such consequences, the public opinion of this country is diametrically opposed to that friendship, and more particularly the public opinion of the party to which the right hon. Gentleman belongs.

With reference to Germany, if we put ourselves into the shoes of the German public, we have no reason to complain of what the German public have been saying and feeling regarding us during the last month or two. That is the great difficulty with the average Englishman: he can never think in terms of another person's feelings. He is perfectly certain that he is the most honest man that the Creator ever made. That a foreigner should question it is absolutely unthinkable to him. That is all very well for him, but it is not very well for the foreigner who does suspect him. I think if we cultivated a little more of that detached mind which enables us to see ourselves apart from ourselves, at any rate the relations between Germany and this country would be very much better than they are now. German public opinion may, I think, assume with the greatest assurance and conviction that English public opinion does regard Germany as the pivot of Europen diplomacy. If we cannot improve the understanding with Germany, we have got to go staggering and tottering along under an ever-increasing burden of armaments. There is a desire at the present moment in England—an overwhelming desire—that the Foreign Offices of England and Berlin should come to some understanding as to the necessity for the continued piling up of these armaments. In this House, upon the 27th July, before its effects were quite seen, I criticised the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I said then, and I repeat it now, that it was an unfortunate speech. I did not know then what I have been informed since. I did not know then about the silence of the German Foreign Office between about the 4th July until a day or two after that speech was delivered, although I knew that there was something of the kind the matter. But the great difficulty with that speech was that it was littered by one who knew the facts and was published to the world that did not know the facts. That is where the trouble came in. Consequently it was imperative, if that speech was to have its effect, not only in the Wilhelm-strasse, but also on public opinion both in Germany and in England, that it should have been followed immediately by an announcement from the Foreign Secretary explaining why it had to be made and the circumstances under which it was made. As a matter of fact, it may be—though I doubt it very much—that that speech brought the friendly communication of the German Embassy. I know as a matter of fact there were other influences in operation at the same time. I know as a matter of fact that other pressure was being brought to bear upon the German Foreign Office. But let us assume that that speech had that effect. Whilst the Foreign Offices were beginning to make peace, the people were in a more warlike frame of mind than before the speech was made. There is not the least doubt that it was seized at that time by every wicked newspaper in Germany, by every Jingo in this country, by every warlike element, by every factor in the making of war. For weeks after that peaceful message had been given to Downing Street the people were moving and thinking and feeling in the dark, imagining that we were on the brink of war, and that nothing had happened as the result of that speech to justify them in coming to any other conclusion.

I criticise now, of course, knowing all the facts, and it is always easy to do that. My only justification is that I did so before the facts were known, and while it was still doubtful what the effect of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's speech would be on the mind of the German people. I hope that the friendship with Russia is not going to be made so binding upon us that England is to become an ally or—if I used the more offensive word I might have some justification for it—a tool in the hands of St. Petersburg. I hope this country is not going to sink to that. I hope the Liberalism of this country is not going to allow itself to sink to that position. The Liberal foreign policy of this country was not a foreign policy that made friends with anybody. It chose its friends. It discriminated in regard to its aims. It would have been prepared to have faced difficulties with Russia rather than stand by while Russia was suppressing national feeling in Persia. We are prepared to face war with Germany when there are economic interests involved in the attachment of Morocco to France or to Germany; but when large questions of foreign policy, of nationality, liberty, and Parliamentary Government are at stake, provided it is a big Power concerned in them, then the new foreign policy is to make friends with that Power and justify it, because the Power will not give us very much trouble.

6.0 P.M.

The only point I wish to make before sitting down is that in view of what has taken place since the middle of June, and more particularly since the beginning of July, it is about time for this House to insist upon knowing something more about foreign affairs than it has done hitherto. I am sure that nobody who understands Continental opinion, and nobody who is privileged to know leading public men in various Continental countries will doubt for a single moment that if we here had known more, the state of the European mind would have been more pacific during the summer and the autumn than it was. Just let this House consider the interview between the right hon. Gentleman and the German Ambassador. The German Ambassador came to the Foreign Office and gave a piece of information, which, had it been published at once, would have allayed the feeling in both countries. I do not—I want to make this clear—blame the Foreign Secretary for this. He has made it perfectly clear that he was not to blame for it. But there it was, this little piece of information about German action in Agadir, in the hands of the Foreign Secretary, kept secret while all sorts of rumour were abroad, while all sorts of suspicions were being spread, whilst the ordinary war press was beating the big drum as loudly as it possibly could; and because, for some reason or other, diplomacy, delicate diplomacy, must be kept secret, my right hon. Friend could not tell us what had happened. He was not allowed to do it; and we were going on, foolishly frightened, full of suspicion, and perfectly prepared to back him, or anybody else up, if war had actually been declared. I have never known such a dramatic condemnation of secret diplomacy as we have had in the speech, in the narrative part of the speech, which my right hon. Friend has just delivered this afternoon.

I wonder if the time has not come for some consideration of this subject. Morocco is no longer a thorn in the diplomatic flesh of Europe. But I am afraid I am not optimistic enough to imagine that we have got all through our diplomatic difficulties, and that, in a sort of millennial peace in Europe, the lion is going to lie down with the lamb. I am afraid that before long we shall have other quarrels, difficulties, and troubles. I am perfectly certain that when those difficulties come upon us it will be very beneficial to this House, to the nation, and to Europe if we had some better means of getting information at the time, and that we had not to wait for it until everything was over. I think it is about time that this House considered how that information is going to be given. All sorts of suggestions have been made. One is that of a Committee on Foreign Affairs should be established to consider treaties and to report upon subjects as they arise. He would be a very rash man who would on the spur of the moment commit himself hopelessly to any one of the various suggestions. But I think one thing might be done: that is an inquiry might be undertaken by Members of this House to find out what is the best way of giving information to this House, and keeping this House in touch with the Foreign Office. In this inquiry the Foreign Office itself might take part, and give us its opinion and assist us to come to a proper understanding. Whether a Foreign Office Committee, on the model of the Budget Committee of the Reichstag, is the best thing might be considered; at all events, an inquiry might be made. At any rate, I hope the experience of the summer and autumn will not allow this House to go quietly to sleep again. We have had our warning. We have had our disturbance. If the result of it is that in future some machinery will be created by which this House, and through this House the country may be kept in touch with foreign affairs and with the mind of the policy of the Foreign Office, then we will look back to the summer of 1911 with a shudder of what we have gone through, but nevertheless with a great deal of delight that it has helped us to settle one of the most difficult and one of the most dangerous problems of our diplomacy.


I do not believe any representative assembly in the history of the world has ever been called upon to discuss a matter so vital and so far-reaching as that which the House of Commons has before it to-day to consider, and with so absolute a lack of information. This present discussion in this respect beats all records. The House was summoned for this discussion to-day without any Papers whatsover. What is it that the House ought to have had before we were asked to embark on this discussion. We ought to have had a Blue Book containing the diplomatic history of the Morrocan question, including the secret treaty with Spain. The Algeciras Act has already been published. I refer to the secret treaty with Spain, published for the first time the other day, and which the Foreign Minister of France declared three weeks ago he had never heard of, and was not aware of the existence of a treaty to which this country was a party. We should have had the text of the German agreement of 1909, with an explanation of how it came about that France jockeyed Germany in regard to that agreement, and withdrew from carrying into effect—a matter that was one of the immediate causes of the recent friction. We ought at all events to have had such an account of diplomatic correspondence between the four great Powers intimately interested in the question of Morocco, as is customary to be given to the House of Commons on such an occasion. This would have enabled Members of the House, before this Debate commenced, to form a really well-grounded judgment upon the whole matter.

We have heard a good deal to-night of the secrecy of the foreign policy of this country. It is no use attempting to deny it. Those of us who have been a long time in this House, and can remember the methods of the Foreign Office twenty-five years ago, know as a matter of fact, which cannot be successfully denied, that the Foreign Office policy has become during the last ten years progressively more secret every year. Until this present year this has gone on, when the intense pressure of foreign affairs and the danger of war has forced the hands of the Minister to give some time for the discussion of Foreign Office affairs. For ten years the foreign policy of this country has been conducted behind an elaborate screen of secrecy. Some of us pointed out years ago that the secrecy of foreign affairs was the inevitable and logical result of that new departure which was heralded about ten years ago, and which we heard praised once more on the floor of this House tonight. I refer to what is known as the policy of the continuity of the foreign policy of this country; of the withdrawal of the foreign policy of this country from the sphere of party politics.

Party politics are the only means by which you can discuss matters of great moment in this House, and the moment there is agreement between the two Front Benches to withdraw the foreign policy of this country from the sphere of party politics, that moment you set up an inevitable and by logical sequence a secret system of foreign policy. As some of us pointed out at the time the inevitable result of that system, which the present Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has on more than one occasion lauded in public, and which we have endorsed from the Front Opposition Bench to-night, has been more and more year after year to throw the conduct of the foreign policy of this country into the hands of the permanent officials of the Foreign Office. That is really what is at the bottom of this matter. This Moroccan business has been in the hands of the permanent officials of the Foreign Office, and has been withdrawn altogether from the cognizance of the House of Commons now for the last seven, eight, or ten years. We are now reaping the consequences.

What were the questions that were being asked all over the country last week? Although he has skirmished round them in his statement to-night I maintain that the Foreign Secretary has given entirely unsatisfactory answers. The first question that I have endeavoured to frame is: What were the causes which led His Majesty's Government to support the French Government in their recent incursion in Morocco—for that is what has led up to the strain and trouble of recent times? What is the nature and extent of the obligations by which this country is bound to France in connection with affairs in Morocco? The Foreign Secretary made an able speech, but he gave us no categorical answer to that point. We know from the statement of the German Minister of Foreign Affairs that it was known to Germany that England was compelled by treaty to support France in her policy to Morocco—at least, diplomatically. The Foreign Secretary evidently laid stress on the words "at least." We have had no light thrown upon the question to-night as to whether we were bound by the interpretation put upon the agreement of 1904 to go beyond diplomacy in supporting France in her attempt to carry into effect a Protectorate Morocco.

Further, there is a question on which I want to say a very few words upon; but it is an all-important question. I understand that the Foreign Secretary or the Prime Minister intends to wind up this Debate and to reply to the various questions raised. What is the interpretation which is put by His Majesty's Government on the terms of the Anglo-Russian Agreement in its application to Persia? These questions, I maintain, have not been satisfactorily answered in the statement to which we have just listened. I have made a careful study of the statement to the Reichstag Committee on Foreign Affairs by the German Foreign Minister, or such parts of it as were published. An authentic official copy of that ought to have been circulated to the Members of this House. We have to rely, so far as the text is concerned, upon newspaper reports, and we have had striking evidence of late that newspaper reports are very dangerous things to rely upon. The Vienna correspondent of "The Times" states that the version of the Foreign Secretary's speech to the Reichstag Committee, published in Vienna, differs in a most material point to that which has been published in London. Yet we are here discussing this all-important question as to whether the statement made by the Foreign Secretary to the House of Commons is a complete explanation, and fills up the blanks in the statement of the German Foreign Minister, and we are left without any authentic text of that statement.

The first thing that strikes me in this Debate on Morocco to-night is that in all the controversy that has raged during these recent months it does not appear to have occurred to anyone that the people of Morocco have any say in the matter at all. {HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear," and a laugh.] That statement excites laughter. I pause here to say that I really do feel it to be a deep humiliation that a British Liberal Minister should stand up and deliver the long speech to which we have listened, the burden and conclusion of which apparently was that in his judgment the Moroccan question had been most satisfactorily settled, with not one sentence from beginning to end to indicate the smallest sympathy with the people to whom the country belonged. Yet I say, I speak with confidence, that there is not a man in this House who would have the courage to stand up and say that we have evidence that the people of Morocco, or any small section of the people of Morocco, are satisfied with the treatment to which their country has been subjected. France, Germany, Spain and Great Britain have been brought to the very edge of war over their respective interests, and not one amongst them has in all this discussion dreamed of consulting the people of Morocco, or of taking into consideration the question that these people have their rights. The Moorish people are a very ancient and a very proud people, who have maintained their liberty now for upwards of a thousand years.

I confess that to me—I am only an Irish Nationalist—it appears one of the most disgraceful of the whole of these transactions, and a disgrace which attaches to all the great Powers of Europe, that the wishes of the people themselves have been so completely ignored. In spite of what the Foreign Secretary has stated, I do most distinctly maintain it is impossible for any man to form a well-founded judgment upon the merts of this recent dispute between England and Germany without considering what has been the history of the Moroccan question. These great questions which bring nations to the verge of war are never the development of a period of six or three months, but are the result of what has been maturing during years of negotiation. The crisis comes as the result of a series of events and difficulties on which it is quite impossible to form an honest and valuable judgment without recalling what has happened in the past.

I recall this more especially, not for its application to the present immediate situation, but as a warning of the danger of this system of secret diplomacy going on behind our backs, and which suddenly finds us on the edge of a precipice without knowing how we got there. If war had broken out in July last, I say there would not have been 100 people in this country who could tell what that war was all about. Is it not a horrible thought that two of the great nations of Europe were brought to the edge of war and would undoubtedly engage in the worst war since the Thirty Years War, which turned back the tide of culture and civilisation in Europe for generations; and I say deliberately, in spite of what the Foreign Secretary has said, I believe we were on the very edge of war when the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was made, and I say it is horrible to think that we should have found ourselves on the verge of war, and that such had been the system of the foreign policy of this country that not 100, and certainly not 300, people in the whole of England could have told what that war was about.

What has happened with regard to Morocco? During the years 1901 and 1902 there occurred negotiations between France, Germany, and Spain, by which there was to be a division of Morocco into spheres of influence which would reconcile the interests of these three Powers. That agreement was on the verge of being signed, but at the last moment Spain withdrew. Up to this day nobody knows why Spain withdrew; I daresay in Germany they have their suspicions. I put this question to the Foreign Secretary and the Government. In the statement of the German Foreign Minister there is a specific statement to the effect that in 1903 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham had a proposal to divide Morocco and to give Germany a considerable territory on the Atlantic coast of Morocco as a port. I asked is there any record of that at the Foreign Office, and I was informed there was not; but the Foreign Minister for Germany surely did not make that statement without being aware of the fact, and I take it that that statement has been dealt with. It is repeated in the Paris Press, and it is accepted in Europe as an authentic and admitted fact, and the reason I allude to it now is, to ask why, if in 1903 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham thought it in no way unfair with our interests to give Germany a port on the coasts of Morocco, why should England be prepared to go to war to-day to prevent that being done? What happened next? Spain withdrew at the end of 1902. On 7th April, 1904, I think, was published the Anglo - French agreement in which Morocco was handed over to Franco. Germany was left out in the cold. You must look back to find the causes of the present mischief, and is it surprising that Germany should feel angry after having as she thought settled the Moroccan question in a way favourable to her interests, Spain suddenly and mysteriously withdraws, and the next thing that Germany was told was of the negotiations which lead up to the French Agreement of 1904.

We heard a great deal about that speech in which the world was informed that England was not prepared to be left out of any negotiations which affected her interests as if she had no right to a seat in the Cabinets of Europe. Was Germany left out in 1904 by England and France, and treated as if she had no right to a seat in the Cabinets of Europe? I think that is a reasonable consideration when there is talk about good feeling between Germany and England, and it helps us to understand Germany's feeling. Let me turn to the justification of that feeling. We were told to-day that the private secret Articles of the Treaty were subsidiary and of no consequence. How can any man who reads this document maintain that proposition? In Article 2 of the Agreement of 1904 we are told, The Government of the French Republic declare that they have no intention of altering the political statue of Morocco. That was the statement made to Europe.

But the secret Articles declare, In the event of either Government finding themselves constrained by the force of circumstances to modify their policy in respect of Egypt or Morocco, the engagements which they have undertaken towards each other … would remain intact. In other words, in the secret Articles England and France agree that whenever they had a likely case—for that is the plain meaning of the secret Articles—they would proceed to alter the political status of Egypt and Morocco, and that, in case they did, their agreement stood as if they adhered to the declarations made public. Will any man listening to that statement say the secret Articles are subsidiary or unimportant? And has Germany no cause to complain of the secret Articles indicating the intention of France not to maintain the status of Morocco, but to abolish it? The next step in the proceedings was that the German Emperor visited Tangier in 1905. It was a counter-stroke to the Anglo-Franch Agreement, which he regarded as directed at Gorman influence in Morocco. The German Emperor declared his determination of maintaining the independence of the Sultan, and that brought about a conference at Algeciras and another war condition. What was the main leading article in the Algeciras Act? It was the justification of the position of Germany, namely, that the European Powers solemnly undertook to maintain intact the sovereign rights and integrity of the Empire of Morocco. I have come to the conclusion, from studying this question, that wherever three or four Powers enter into an agreement to maintain the integrity of a smaller and weaker Power, that Power is certainly doomed and going to be divided up.

The ink upon the Algeciras Act was hardly dry when France set to work to attempt to undo it, and by steady encroachment to set aside this solemn European instrument and to set up her Protectorate over Morocco, and when the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs declared to-night that the German Foreign Secretary made no protest against France advancing upon Fez, I would point out that that is not the effect of the statement issued by the German Foreign Minister. What did France do? She commenced by encroachments upon the frontier, and she then proceeded to the bombardment of Casa Blanca, which was one of the most outrageous violations of the Act of Algeciras and one of the most brutal and barbarous acts ever perpetrated. We have all heard of the terrible massacres at Tripoli, but they were not one whit worse than the bombardment of Casa Blanca, which was a defenceless town, and in which men and women were blown to pieces. Having bombarded Casa Blanca, they occupied Shawia, one of the richest provinces of Morocco, and held it ever since. Germany regarded all those proceedings as a gross violation of the Act of Algeciras, and the German Minister tells us, being of peaceful inclination, "We seriously debated whether we would not deliver an ultimatum to France and check her course. But we came to the conclusion that popular feeling in Germany would not justify a war for the sake of some remote corner of Morocco"; but he says that Germany regarded these proceedings as a violation of the Act of Algeciras, and that there was a growing discontent with the proceedings of France. What does he say about the expedition to Fez? He says in the document from which I am quoting that, although German accounts and reports as to the danger of Europeans in Fez did not bear out the French statements, still Germany made no protest, because she did not want to bring on war, but that they regarded the occupation of Fez as a final destruction of the Act of Algeciras. I do not think the statement of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs gave as fair an account of the position of Germany as the statement by the German Foreign Minister. The German Foreign Minister says that they regarded this expedition to Fez as finally destroying the Act of Algeciras, as it undoubtedly did; and, furthermore, that their report showed that France's allegations, upon which they justified the expedition, were not borne out by the German reports.

I put a question upon this subject to the Foreign Secretary, and he replied that he approved of the occupation of Fez, because he could see no other way of saving the lives of the Europeans alleged to be in danger. I asked the right hon. Gentleman have we any evidence from the British Consul at Fez as to whether there was ever any serious danger to Europeans, and up to this hour not a shred of evidence has been placed before the House that they were in danger. I believe a more disgraceful and mendacious campaign was never started upon than this, and I believe it was engineered throughout by rather shady and disreputable financiers in France through "Le Matin" and "Le Temps" newspapers, and solely for the purposes of giving a plausible excuse for the tearing up of the Algeciras Act.

I take exception to the action of the Foreign Minister because by one word of remonstrance he could have put a stop to all this. He only needed to have said, "We cannot support a policy which gives offence to Germany and the whole of Europe." If the terms of the Act of Algeciras had been carried out the seizure of Tripoli by the Italians would never have been heard of. That was the Pandora's-Box which let loose all these evils upon the world. The Foreign Secretary need not suppose that we are out of the wood yet, because we are not. The condition of foreign affairs in Europe is as menacing as ever, and until the whole of the Morocco business is cleaned up, and it is not cleaned up yet, the House must remember that the whole situation is not so roseate as the Foreign Secretary imagines. There has been a long-continued policy of aggression in Morocco in defiance of the Act of Algeciras, and the expedition to Fez was in reality cruel and unjust to the people against whom it was directed. The Foreign Secretary has made himself practically responsible for that expedition in the negotiations which have taken place between France and this country, and after his action it is wrong for the right hon. Baronet to speak as he did in this House. Does anyone believe that the French would have risked the expedition to Fez and its consequences without obtaining the consent of the British Government? This Government cannot wash its hands of that responsibility, and I protest with all the earnestness I can command against the doctrine that when you reach some terrible crisis it is your duty to say, "Wipe the slate and never mind what led up to that state of things." That is the act of children. When the crisis is over we can safely discuss these matters, and we should insist upon a full disclosure of the causes so that we may be able to endeavour to avoid them in the future. I shall not enter at any great length upon the crisis which arose in July, but there is only one sentence which fell fom the right hon. Gentleman which merits an explanation. He used these words:— On the 21st July I had been made anxious by the news which was published the day before. What news, and where was it published? That is an all-important question. [An HON. MEMBER: "In 'Le Temps.'"] The right hon. Gentleman said he had been made anxious by the news published the day before. The German Foreign Secretary, in his communication to the Committee of the Reichstag, lays stress upon the point that Germany and France mutually agreed to maintain absolute and strict secrecy in all their negotiations, and he said Germany honourably maintained that secrecy so strictly that she did not communicate the information even to her allies. He further states that the French Government maintained no such secrecy, and they allowed the information to leak out to the Press of Paris. Do I understand that it was from the French Government that the right hon. Baronet got his information? He speaks of the information published the day before, and if you turn to the statement of the German Foreign Secretary you will find that he emphasises the fact that both Governments were bound by the strictest secrecy and pledged not to tell even their own allies. He further states that the German Government observed that secrecy. In view of that statement I would like to know from what source did the information reach the right hon. Gentleman in regard to the intolerable demand of Germany. The right hon. Gentleman says his anxiety was based on the fact that the demands published the day before were of such a character that no French Government could even consider them. How did he get to know what those demands were, and from what source did he obtain them? They must have been obtained by a disgraceful breach of secrecy on the part of the French people. In a great international crisis like that, any Government which allows information of that kind to get into the newspapers commits a great crime.

What is the history of this matter? I have here an extract from the only paper I know of where this information was published, and it appeared in "The Times" newspaper from its Berlin and Paris correspondent on the morning before the 21st July, and there appears in it the same language as that used by the right hon. Gentleman. It says: negotiations have reached a most critical point in regard to Germany's demands in the French Congo. "The Times" said even more than the right hon. Gentleman said, for they asserted that the demands of Germany were plainly of such a character that no French Government could consider them for a moment, and they went on in a leader to say that even if the French Government were weak enough to consider them, no British Government should tolerate or allow France to accept them. The right hon. Gentleman did not go as far as that. That was the expression of opinion in "The Times," and that seemed to be the only channel of information as far as I know, and it published what no newspaper ought to have published, considering the great issues which were hanging in the balance. "The Times" published information which, from what the right hon. Gentleman has said, appeared to have been accurate information. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke at the Mansion House, "The Times," on the following morning, published a furious leader attacking Germany and calling upon the British Government to dispatch an English warship to Agadir without delay. "The Times" newspaper is regarded abroad, for some reason, as being in touch and inspired by the Foreign Office, and if hon. Gentlemen really wish to know the source of a good deal of all this trouble, it arises from the manner in which this information is spread abroad. I am not speaking of the opinion of the general public, but of responsible people when I say that abroad the relations between the British Foreign Office and "The Times" newspaper are regarded as exceedingly close, so close in fact as to put "The Times" in the position of being a semi-inspired newspaper. Therefore, I say, that that one sentence in the statement of the Foreign Secretary requires explanation. We want to know from what source the right hon. Gentleman obtained the information which induced him to say on 21st July that the terms demanded by the German Government in these secret negotiations were entirely intolerable and such as no French Government could consider, and why he was uneasy by his knowledge of these terms and when they were published. I do not know anywhere except in "The Times" that they were published. The German Foreign Secretary said, Negotiations have been begun on both sides and were guaranteed the strictest secrecy. We had taken the obligation seriously and had not even informed our allies. France had adopted another procedure, and had informed not only the Press, but as appears also her friends with information which was incomplete, inexact, and calculated to cast suspicion on our intentions. That is a very grave charge, and one which, to a large extent, justifies Germany in the action she took. Here we have it on the authority of the German Foreign Minister, that France, having entered into a pledge of secrecy with the German Government, which Germany honourably observed, took a different course and informed, not only the Press, but her allies in a manner calculated to cast suspicion on the intentions of Germany. Such a method of carrying on diplomacy is disgraceful and calculated to lead to grave difficulties. On the 6th of this month "The Times," in a leader, made a statement which undoubtedly did a vast deal of mischief in regard to these negotiations. "The Times" said, The speech of the German Chancellor is remarkable for its omissions. The acuteness of the recent crisis was beyond all question due in large measure to two things—the manner in which Germany chose to conduct the conversations with France, and the original presentation by Germany of demands enormously in excess of the gains which ultimately satisfied her. The demands were presented in the middle of July, and they were withdrawn at the beginning of August. Mr. Lloyd George's speech was delivered on the morrow of the publication of the demands. The speech would presumably not have been delivered if the demands had not been presented and pressed. How and for what purpose were these alleged demands published? This newspaper boasts that since the German Chancellor's pacific speeches were made they did publish these demands, which were strictly confidential, and that Mr. Lloyd George's speech compelled the German Government to withdraw those demands. Is it any wonder the German Government should be irritated and exasperated to the last degree by treatment such as that? We were told by the Foreign Secretary that the German Ambassador when he was asked said he was not in the position to say, and did not know what the demands were. He was not acquainted with those particulars, which we now learn were published in "The Times" the day before, and were largely the cause of all the anxiety.

I want to say a few words about the question of Persia. I understand we were invited to raise these other questions, although the main discussion would be on the question of the Moroccan crisis, and that the Foreign Secretary would reply on such other matters as were raised in Debate. Of course, the shape which the Debate has taken makes it impossible for any Member to address the House more than once. I desire to reinforce what was said just now by the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald). Things have come to such a pass in Persia that I do think the interest of this country is considerably aroused. What was the object set forth in the Anglo-Russian Agreement? That object, so far as it related to Persia, was to preserve and maintain the integrity and the independence of the Persian Government. When the Persian Government protested against those portions of the Anglo-Russian Agreement which set up spheres of influence without consulting the Persians at all, the British Government desired the British Minister at Teheran, on 5th September, 1907, to make a solemn communication to the Persian Government in the following words:— The object of the two Powers, Russia and England, in making this agreement, is not in any way to attack, but rather to assure for ever the independence of Persia. Not only do they not wish to have at hand any excuses for intervention, but their object in these friendly negotiations was not to allow one another on the pretext of safeguarding their interests to interfere in the internal affairs of Persia. Could there be a more complete assurance to Persia? It was meant to be a complete assurance. It was given by the British Minister in reply to a protest from Persia, and the words used were:— The objects of the two Governments is not to allow one another. Therefore, the honour of England is pledged to the hilt in this matter, not only to abstain ourselves, but to prevent to the best of our ability Russia pursuing this matter. What has been the history? Immediately after the meeting at Revel, the Persian Parliament was bombarded by Russian Cossacks, and from that hour to this the Russian Government has persistently, steadily, and without halt, obstructed the National Government of Persia and carried on a system of perpetual aggression. She has never ceased to work up rebellions, and to in every other way make it impossible for Persia to carry on her Government. Finally, when the ex-Shah was defeated and fled for protection to the Russian Legation, the following protocol, 25th August, 1899, was signed by England and Russia: The two representatives undertake to give His Majesty Mohammed Ali Mirza strict injunctions to abstain in future from all political agitation against Persia, and the Imperial Russian Government promise on their side to take all effective steps to prevent any such agitation on his part. If His Majesty Mohammed Ali Mirza leaves Russia and if it is proved to the satisfaction of the two Legations that in any country other than Russia he has carried on political agitation against Persia, the Persian Government shall have the right to cease payment of his pension. The Russian Government gave an effective pledge to prevent his return. It is now proved the Russian Government facilitated his return and incited him to return. I do not know whether hon. Members have read the statement made by the General of the ex-Shah, Arshadu 'd-Dawla, who was recently executed after the battle in which the troops of the ex-Shah were defeated. On the night before his death this unhappy man made this statement, every word of which I believe to be absolutely true, to "The Times" correspondent: I did not go to Odessa. Salar-ud-Dawla went there and saw Mohammed Ali. It was arranged that he should enter from the Turkish side. Then Mohammed Ali and I met in Vienna. The Russian Ambassador came to see us, and we asked for help. He told us Russia could not help us. Russia and England hart an agreement with regard to Persia, from which neither could depart. They had resolved not to interfere in any way internally. 'But, on the other Viand,' he said, 'the field is clear, and if we can do nothing for you, we equally will do nothing against you. It is for you to decide what are your chances of success. If you think you can reach the throne of Persia then go, only remember we cannot help you, and if you fail we have no responsibility.' 'There is something else you can do for us. Let us have some money.' 'No, it is quite impossible,' he replied. In spite of that, I was told here in the House that the Russian Government declared they had done their very best to keep the ex-Shah in Odessa and prevent him from returning to Persia. He was defeated, but the Russian Government have not ceased since to carry on a policy of prosecution, an intolerable policy, which has made the Government of Persia an absolute impossibility. Some time ago they started another rebellion. They sent a man, named Darab Mirza, a Persian prince naturalised as a Russian subject, and an officer in a Cossack regiment, with a number of safe conducts signed by Russian officers to stir up rebellion. When I put a question about it in the House it was all denied, I have no doubt, on the faith of the Russian Minister. I have myself examined the original documents which were taken from this officer. There are dozens of them, signed by Russian officers, giving safe conducts to him and his officers. It has been plainly the policy of Russia, and now all England recognises it, to make the Government of Persia impossible for the purpose of having an excuse to come in and take possession of her sphere of influence. What has been the policy of England? In the first place, England, who undoubtedly, had she remonstrated with Russia at the beginning of the campaign, could have stopped it, has sympathetically, through the mouth of the Foreign Secretary in this House, condoned, excused, and explained every step Russia has taken.

What is the traditional policy of Russia? She commences with small things, by which she feels her way, and, if they pass, she goes and does something more. When the Foreign Secretary justifies and excuses and explains away these attacks on the integrity and independence of Persia, I say he makes himself responsible for all Russia is doing and encourages her to further acts of violence. That is not all. When the unfortunate Government of Persia was so harassed that it was impossible for her to maintain order, such as prevails in this or any other Western European country, what did England do but send an ultimatum that if the southern trade routes were not protected she must sent in Indian officers to take charge of them. That ultimatum was not acted upon, but the moment it became apparent, as it did a few weeks ago, that the Persian Government were strong enough to crush and had crushed the rebellion of the ex-Shah, engineered as it was by Russia, what did the British Government do? The very moment the Persian Government is getting on its legs, and had a chance again of producing order, the British Government on a totally different pretex ordered Indian troops to occupy several of the southern cities in the England sphere of influence. Remember this—it is really the most cruel thing: The pretext on which this act was done was that European lives were in danger. It is one of the most extraordinary things throughout the whole of this Persian trouble, now lasting for six years, that from the beginning to the end—during civil war, tumult, and disorder of various kinds—not one single European has been injured. There is no such record in the whole of history. Yet after such a magnificent record, England seizes the opportunity, while Russia are invading Northern Persia, to send Indian troops into Southern Persia. Remember this: We have not up to this moment one tittle of evidence laid before the House of Commons on what ground our Government asserted that European lives were in danger in any of the Southern spheres; indeed, nothing but the word of the Secretary of State.

What is the effect of this policy? The effect, in the first place, must be to destroy the prestige of the Persian Government, and, in the second place, to make it despair of maintaining its ground against the pressure of Russia. The effect in this country has been to convince the people here that England is a party to the Russian aggresion, and has consented practically to the partition of Persia. Its effect has also been to seriously and immeasurably weaken England's position to-remonstrate on any act of aggression by Russia because she herself has committed a similar act. The result is this: Russia has proceeded with her policy in contempt and defiance of the pledges given both by herself and England to greater lengths than she ever went before. She has indeed demanded practically the dismissal of Mr. Morgan Sinister, who, I would almost say, was the last hope of Persia. She has demanded his dismissal, and mark this: The Persian Government were called upon the other day to apologise, not for their offence because they had committed no offence, but for an outrage Russian Cossacks had committed upon the constabulary organised by Mr. Shuster. When the Russian troops crossed the Frontier, the Persians, in despair, put themselves in the hands of England, and said they would consent to make any apology England advised them to make. England did advise them to make an apology. I take this from the St. Petersburg Correspondence of the "Telegraph":— An important official having been asked by the 'Novoya Vremya' interviewer what would be the action of the Russian Government in the event of the Persian Government offering an apology replied, 'We have done everything possible to bring the Persians to a sober frame of mind. Russian troops are now on Persian soil, and excuses from the Persian Government will be regarded as belated and leading to nothing whatever.' That shows clearly the purpose of Russia has been throughout to pick a quarrel with Persia, no matter what the Persians did to avoid a quarrel, in order to give them an excuse for the invasion of Persia. Now she demands the dismissal of Mr. Shuster, and the "Novoya Vremya," which appears to be a St. Petersburg "Times," comes out with this charming language, which I trust has been telegraphed to Washington. It says:— The 'Novoya Vremya' accuses the Persian diplomats of ignoring the Press and public, a course which it declares has resulted in the Russian Minister at Teheran appearing in the light of an unsuccessful rival of a petty American freebooter. 7.0 P.M.

That is the language used by the Russian Press describing Mr. Shuster, who was supplied from Washington as the best expert to take charge of Persian finance. That shows the position to which England has been brought by this system of understanding. I do not for one moment imagine that the understanding with France would be interpreted as a pledge to go with war on behalf of Morocco, and certainly the English people were never led to believe that the pledges of the English Minister at Teheran would be interpreted into an arrangement to deprive that interesting country of its liberties. I am deeply convinced that the Minister for Foreign Affairs had at the outset of the business remonstrated with Russia and asked her to adhere strictly to the terms and spirit of the agreement, she would have done so. But instead of doing that the speches in this House seemed to justify the Russian aggression. Both the people of Morocco and of Persia are entitled to have their rights considered. I gravely doubt whether, even looking at the matter from the point of view of narrow British selfishness, you are not inflicting a great injury on this Empire by carrying out, in co-operation with such an Empire as Russia, this division of Persia.


Those who listened attentively to the speech of the Foreign Secretary, and particularly those who are the friends and admirers of Germany, must have had deepened the anxiety they had felt up to the present time. Many of us have believed that the acts of courtesy shown on both sides, and a possible completion of the series of building operations on the part of Germany would have led to an understanding, and have brought the two countries into brotherhood. That hope has to a great extent now disappeared. Many of us feel that the Government have been justified up to the hilt in insuring themselves by making naval preparation commensurate with the risk and entering into alliances sufficiently powerful to make war unlikely. So far as Morocco is concerned, that has simply been an incident in the controversy, and it has had very little bearing on the general problem. As long as Germany insists on building against us while she has no naval bases abroad, no coal stations, and only colonies of very little value, she cannot expect to maintain a position on the high seas equivalent to our own. If she attempts to do so, she is becoming a rival to this country, is attempting to imperil the safety of this country, which depends so largely on her sea supplies. Therefore, while that policy continues, we are bound to make alliances; we are bound to endeavour to insure ourselves and to spend whatever is necessary for that purpose, even by deducting the money from the social and other improvements which all desire to see carried forward.

But, after all, what Germany is doing is to wake up our Navy, improve its condition, and to multiply its force. If she continues in the same course, she will infuse a new spirit into our Army as well, greatly as we desire to avoid anything in the nature of conscription. She is, in fact, taking a course which will ensure that we become more formidable than we were before these attacks were commenced upon us. Morocco by herself is hardly known. She is a geographical expression. The country is populated by cutthroat tribes, who are always at war with one another. There is no nationality there. The tribes are nominally subject of the Sultan, but they are really independent, for ever fighting against one another for supremacy. We cannot have the southern shores of the Mediterranean left in the hands of such barbarians. To whom the State of Morocco shall belong is the main question. I have not heard in the speeches delivered here a word against Germany being perfectly prepared to appropriate any part of Morocco, whereas France has been very severely condemned for her efforts in the same direction. Prance, however, has given some proof of her power to civilise in her settlements in Tunis and Algeria. We have to ask ourselves are we prepared not to take any step at all, either to protect ourselves or our neighbours from such a great State as Germany has developed into. Are we not to go to war under any circumstances? Where is the line to be drawn? It would be much more in favour of peace, and it would be more frank and courteous to tell Germany exactly what we mean. We do not want to leave her in ignorance, and thus blunder into war. One has heard rumours of pressure on the Chancellor of the Exchequer relating to his speech. I am glad to think there has been no kind of reference to that in to-day's Debate. If the rumour were true it would have found prompt expression in this House. I believe that there is a very strong feeling in this country in favour of maintaining, peace, and I believe, too, that Churchmen and Nonconformists alike are prepared to back up the Government in their efforts to secure peace. But they believe that the best method of obtaining peace is by maintaining a dignified attitude, by strength of purpose, and by preparation for war. I do not believe that on this occasion Germany intended war. She could not have done so; she dare not meet two or three States in arms. She dare not meet a massing of troops on her Eastern frontier, or an even stronger combination on the West. She is too sane and too cool-headed to risk such a contingency, and while the same combination prevails there will be peace.


I need not say how hard it is for anyone speaking here for the first time to touch on so difficult, I might almost say so perilous, a subject as foreign affairs. It is with the greatest diffidence that I venture to speak to-day, and I only dare to do so because I have had some personal knowledge of some of the parts of the world which come within the orbit of this particular Debate. I particularly feel the responsibility which attaches to any Member, no matter how new a comer he may be, when he is speaking on these subjects. I have known Armenians who have been encouraged to their own disaster by hearing occasional encouragement in this House, and have been led to go far beyond what they would have done had it not been for such encouragement. I have had similar knowledge and experience of Greeks who have suffered in the same way. I even fear to-day lest when this Debate is reported in the French newspapers there may be a certain danger of a revulsion of feeling consequent on words used by the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon). The point I wish to mention to the House to-day is a very important one. Although certainly I am not in favour of open diplomacy, and although I do not think there has been exactly what one may call secrecy, still I hold that, to a certain extent, the people of this country have got out of touch with the foreign policy of this country. The democracy has not taken a very great interest in it. Of course there have been tremendous internal political problems which have taken up the interests of the people to the exclusion of foreign affairs. At the same time, I think I am fairly criticising the right hon. Gentleman when I say that during the late crisis there was a danger—when, as has already been said, at one moment this country was within measurable distance of war—the people who would have to fight—the working classes—would not have known exactly what were the rights or wrongs of the dispute. Far be it from me to suggest that every detail and every dispatch should be disclosed, tout if I may I will give an instance showing the difference between the attitude of the democracy of this country in a great crisis, one now happily passed—and that of another democracy. I hope the House will not think I am wasting time in drawing the comparison. I was in Tunis and Algeria from the end of February until the early part of April. There is a large white population, gradually becoming the Latin population, on the North African coast. I spoke to many people there: travellers in the trains, officers in the army, and merchants. I found they had one idea. They said to me, "There is most probably going to be war; things are working up towards trouble in Morocco. We shall take sides. If Germany interferes England will back us up." That was the view of the man in the street—that is, of the French and Latin man in the street in Algeria.

In September I went to the Yorkshire Wolds. It was part of my business to see to getting horses, harness, and carts in the event of the mobilisation of the Territorial Force. I went from one large wealthy farm to another, and asked if I could schedule certain articles they had on the farm. They said, "You can take the whole lot." I said "I do not want to take so much that you will not be able 'to work the farm when they are taken away." The immediate reply was, "Do you really mean to say that they might be taken?" That is just an example. I know there is no open diplomacy in France any more than there is here, but this is an instance of how it strikes me that the democracy of this country have drifted away from foreign affairs.

The right hon. Gentleman has complained of "scare lines" in newspapers, and people who have made speeches which are likely to make the flesh creep, and he has done so quite rightly. But I think that if people do not get a definite lead from the right hon. Gentleman himself, and a definite rough outline as to the state of affairs, any tale will be believed. It profits no one that there should be absolutely no touch between the people on the question of foreign affairs. The most charitable are obliged always to judge by results, and if they see the results but do not see the steps which have led up to the results they will probably take a wrong view of the results. For example, what Member of this House had any idea of the true course of the crisis. Now every Member has a far different opinion of the strong action of the right hon. Gentleman since he has given us an account of the thing than when he came into the House to-day. I have no doubt that many of these results might, if we knew more about the steps, seem better than they are.

As to Persia, there are certain points that arise. There is the Anglo-Russian Treaty. I suppose that that Treaty was eventually to lead to three things, although only one is mentioned in the Treaty itself. The object of the Treaty was to ensure the integrity of Persia, to prevent or head-off any unwelcome strangers coming down the Persian Gulf, and eventually to set up a sound but friendly barrier between ourselves and Russia. It is the desire of no statesman to have a Russian frontier. It is a fact, whether you go to the Polish or the Turkish frontier of Russia, that there is always a good deal of trouble on the other side of that frontier, and naturally we wish to avoid that. In this case I think the Anglo-Russian Treaty of 1907 has led to directly the contrary result. For instance, how can we ensure the integrity of Persia if we hand over the political and strategic centre of the country to the dominant influence of a Power, of the only Power that does not wish to see a strong nation established south of the Caspian? How may we expect Persia to survive? She invites unbelievers to command her police, and the Moslein climbs down so low as to say, "I will go to the infidel and ask him to command my police," and then may not even choose the kind of infidel who is to do that job. Persia is sinking and beginning to disintegrate. What is going to happen to us? We are going to have the wrong end of Persia; we are going to be charged with the military expense of policing that district, and we are going to rouse even a greater suspicion than ever that already roused in the minds of the Afghans, the very people whose minds we want to keep clear of any idea that we want to apply the same methods to Afghanistan. If there is anything in the Convention signed between the Russians and Germans with regard to Persia that came out in "The Times" of the 22nd August, I cannot help thinking that that is one partial step towards thwarting our policy in the Persian Gulf. Already Russia and Germany are beginning to talk about how railways are going to be built in the Russian part of Persia if Russia does not build them. If anything was to be done by Convention I understood it was that the Russian part should remain Russian. It may mean much to the commercial and strategic position of that Power who will eventually build the Bagdad Railway. That is a serious consideration. If our policy has these results—no one knows the steps which have led up to them—in Persia, they are not satisfactory.

Again, if we turn to Turkey, I think the results are far from satisfactory so far as our policy is concerned. When the right hon. Gentleman first assumed office he took over that awful charge which weighed on the shoulders of every English Secretary of State, the internal condition of Turkey in Europe and Turkey in Asia, and our responsibility in the matter. The right hon. Gentleman took over that charge when Turkey was at its very worst, during the last declining days of Abdul Hamid. There were then three serious problems to be faced in regard to Turkey: the problem of equilibrium, the hope of good government for the Balkans, the problem of the Bagdad Railway, and also the problem of our serious responsibilities with regard to the Christian inhabitants of Turkey in Asia; liabilities which we have always been ready to admit and always done our best to carry out. Suddenly, and not altogether unanticipated, came the revolution. I say not unanticipated, because the Hamedieh régime was only limited by the life of one very ill creature indeed. It came sooner than anticipated, and with it came a moment of radiant hope for Turkey. It came at a moment when our popularity was immense; the reason for that being that it was well known that we had nothing to do with concession hunting, or pandering to Abdul Ahmed's butchery of his Christian subjects, and that our hands were absolutely clean.

The whole people, Mahomedans and Christians alike, turned to us. What has been our policy in regard to Turkey since then it is impossible to say. The right hon. Gentleman has really given so little information that we are without the rough outline of what our policy has been since then. On the surface we have given some officers to the Navy, some excellent officers and instructors. We have given certain officers to the Turkish Customs, who have done good work. That is not going very far. I know that the financiers of Turkey will never forgive us—although I do not think the right hon. Gentleman is responsible for it—in that we are building for Turkey two "Dreadnoughts" at this moment. That is the whole of our policy with regard to Turkey, except that certainly at the beginning of the new régime we did tend to embroil ourselves in the party politics of that country. We certainly selected one particular Minister for praise. He was mentioned by name, and he was selected for particular praise. If anything could be an error that must be, because when a country is in the throes or a revolution it is certain that every Minister in turn will have his portion of unpopularity, and those who have backed him or praised him will have to share in that unpopularity.

Then came the revolution of April, and again the silence at home. We know not what happened, or what was our attitude with regard to it. We know that those who conquered in that revolution and the people who succeeded in crushing the counter revolution have been hostile to England since that day. I do not know whether we did something by omission or commission; I should think omission. A rough idea ought to be given to the House of how we stand with regard to Turkey. Turkey is going downhill, she is bound in debt, and yet I am certain that a strong and united Turkish Empire is as important to English commerce and strategy now as it was in the time of Lord Beaconsfield, and, perhaps, even more so. One thinks of Germany for a moment, but I am certain that, so far as private Members are concerned, the least said about Germany the better. We have heard from the right hon. Gentleman that there are no obligations other than those obligations that have been stated, and that there are no secret obligations. Although we may have no obligations in the event of a possible war taking place, the right hon. Gentleman did not say anything about intentions, and if it were our intention, in the event of a war—I do not say with whom—to send an armed force of troops sufficient in number to affect a European war from this country to the Continent of Europe, all I can say is our Foreign Office policy and the War Office provision do not fit at all. If we had to send abroad enough men to have any effect in a European war, we should not only have to send men to the Continent of Europe, but I am certain that when you send a red-coat or a khaki-coat across the water to the Continent of Europe you must simultaneously send large numbers to Egypt, the Soudan, and India. We remember the Mutiny and the Crimea, and how the two went together. There are plenty of people in India, in Egypt, and in the Soudan who, the moment the news comes across the wires that English soldiers are in Europe will spread the news that they are beaten. If you do not want to have simultaneous trouble in those countries, not only must you send your expedition to Europe, but you must send two fairly large expeditions to show that your hands are not preoccupied, to show that you have still got strength. What had more effect in India than anything else during the South African War was the fact that we could take part in the march on Pekin, because it showed that we were not fully pre-occupied. That we must certainly do, and there I come to the fact that if we send men to Europe and elsewhere where they are required this country is without a garrison, because the tremendous distance there is between mobilisation and efficiency in the Territorial Force leaves the country absolutely denuded of troops.

I speak with the greatest care of the present war, because I do not wish to say anything whatever that could in any way offend the nation with whom we have such traditional relations that can never be broken. But there are certain points which I think ought to be taken into consideration. The longer that war goes on the worse it must be for this country. There is the question of our trade in the Ægean; there is the question of the lighthouses, which are no longer lit on a dangerous coast, and in month of November where you have bad currents and driving snowstorms, that must affect English more than Continental shipping. The Continental shipping is confined to the Messageries Maritimes and coasting steamers and Austrians, and so on, who are going up and down these coasts year in and year out. They know every turn, and they would not want a single light. But what about the little stray English "tramp"—which has never been there before, and whose captain is not likely to go again—going into unlighted seas where there are fogs and snow and difficult currents? It is most important that these lights should, if possible, be relit. There is also the question of mined harbours. There are certain Turkish harbours which are mined.

I have the greatest admiration for Turkish troops. I have seen them under all sorts of circumstances, and I know Turkish officers well, and very fine fellows they are, but I should not like to take a ship into a harbour which had been mined by a Turkish officer, even if the officer was piloting her into the harbour. During the earthquakes in Macedonia, in 1905, I was in a town on the Balkan frontier where the powder magazine had been shaken down, and I found a Turkish General smoking cigarettes in the magazine while the men were digging out the shells with steel-pointed picks. The people are fatalists. They do not take the same view as scientific people who are not fatalists. There is also the question of our Maltese subjects along the North African coast. These poor people, I am certain, must have suffered very severely, for all their work was suspended. They have invested some of their money in land which is now being walked over by troops, and must be being destroyed, because wherever you have armies marching to and fro on the outskirts of a town the small holders and so on must suffer. It is important for us, in the eyes of the Maltese especially, because they hold the key to a very important place for us in the Mediterranean. They have sometimes thought they felt our occupation of Malta a certain burden upon us. Now is the time to prove to them that it is worth while being an Englishman, because when there is war you are compensated, and I hope steps will be taken to properly compensate these poor people for all the troubles which they must be enduring at this moment. But these are questions which may be settled by the ordinary moving of the diplomatic machine.

There are three questions which I speak of with great diffidence, but which must be mentioned. There is the question of the Christians in Asia Minor. People are now coming away from Tripoli. There is the old Moslem doctrine that a man may not live tinder a Christian Power, and wherever Christian Powers have intruded in Turkey a certain number of the people have left Bosnia and Herzegovina. Refugees will leave Tripoli and will go back to Asia Minor. I admit that Turkey has made thousands of gross mistakes, but it has been one advantage of the new régime that undoubtedly in Asia there is a better feeling between Christians and Moslems. They are inclined now to come together. They have, in fact, come together. When the news come to these countries of what has been happening in Tripoli, what will be the effect there? Will it not be likely once more to provoke those troubles which were only suspended? I am sure the Foreign Secretary admits that we have a direct moral responsibility for the lives and liberties, inasmuch as we can protect them, of these people in Asia Minor, and it is our business to do our very utmost—though far be it from me to suggest actually what might be done—to see that no European Power gives the Moslem provocation to retaliate for things which have been done. If we have a duty to Christendom, equally we have a duty to Islam. We must remember our loyal subjects in India. That is saying nothing offensive to the Italians themselves. Personally, I do not believe in Pan-Islamism. I do not believe Pan-Islamism is a force. I think the only possibility of Pan-Islamism becoming a force was in the case of the Sultan Abdul Ahmed himself, who was the prime mover. If it is to be made a force, it will be by the continuance of events such as we have heard reported from Tripoli.

Lastly, with regard to Egypt, I submit that Mahdism is not dead. It exists today. There are as many people who hold Mahdist views now as there were on the day of the battle of Omdurman. That I am certain of from personal experience. Then we have also to remember that in Tripoli or in Egypt—for the Frontier is doubtful—are the headquarters of the Senoussi Sect, a new religious movement spreading right away towards Tunis and right away into Algeria and far away south of the Niger. These are two great forces which may directly be started moving once more. Only whisper the word of a Jehad, and it may spread like wildfire. Preach it violently and it may not come off at all. There is always the chance of an enormous religious movement being started by actual events in North Africa. At present we hold Egypt and the Soudan by a minute garrison, a garrison which is the marvel of every soldier in Europe who is not an Englishman. They cannot understand how we can do it. The only reason why we can hold it with a tiny garrison is because the people perhaps treat us—they do not like us certainly, but they treat us, as perhaps some optimists hope the working men of England will treat the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Insurance Bill, not as a thing that is nice, but as a thing which is beneficial. There are plenty of people in Egypt whose business it is to say we are not beneficial. The Fellaheen sees his fields well cultivated and sees the tax-gatherer coming, but sees no stick, and he still remembers that there was once a stick, and we have taken it away. But there is the fuel of fanaticism. Let the spark fall, and it may blaze up, and that spark may come from Tripoli itself. I hope from this time forward the democracy of England will not be given every dispatch or shown every secret in working the diplomatic machine, but that they will be from time to time kept more in touch with the actual workings of our policy, as I am sure they will be to-morrow when they read the reports of the speech of the Secretary of State.

The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Asquith)

It is my most agreeable duty—if the hon. Gentlemen will allow me to do so—to congratulate him very heartily on as promising and successful a maiden speech as almost any I have listened to in my long experience. He has brought to the discussion of a large variety of topics a fulness of knowledge and freshness of argument and illustration, and last, but in my opinion, by no means least, a wealth of humour, which makes us look forward with the greatest interest to his future participation in our Debates. He will forgive me if I do not follow him into his detailed criticism of British policy in regard to Persia and into the very weighty arguments—for I think they were very weighty—which he offered in the concluding portion of his speech on the present situation in Tripoli. The Secretary of State will have an opportunity later on in the Debate of dealing with those matters. I want to go back to the topic with which our discussion began. I have nothing really to add to the exposition given by the Secretary of State of the policy which has beeen pursued by the Government in regard to the negotiations now happily at an end between Germany and France on the subject of Morocco. He has stated the case, and this is the first opportunity he has had of stating it, with fulness and with precision, and I acknowledge with gratitude, though without surprise, the very weighty endorsement which fell from the lips of the Leader of the Opposition of the position taken up by my right hon. Friend. So far as we are concerned, from first to last we had two objects, and two objects only, in view in these negotiations. The first is to safeguard, if and so far as they might be involved, British interests, and the second is to maintain our Treaty obligations with other Powers. Every step which we took was with the aim of securing one or other or both of these objects. I hope it is not necessary at this stage to disclaim, for I should disclaim it with all possible force and sincerity, the nation that at any stage of the transactions we were animated by rancour or hostility, or by indirect motives of any sort or kind, or any disposition to thwart the legitimate ambitions and purposes of other great Powers. The House has heard from my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, and I believe has heard with universal satisfaction, that the world is now in possession of the whole of our Treaty obligations on this subject. There is no secret arrangement of any sort or kind which has not been disclosed, and fully disclosed, to the public, and we ask, from that point of view, that our conduct should be judged by the measure of our Treaty obligations which Members of the House are able to ascertain precisely for themselves.

My object in rising is not to answer criticisms, for I do not think any serious criticism has really been offered—I have not heard any, at all events—but rather to deal with the point taken by the hon. Gentleman opposite (Colonel Mark Sykes) and others in the Debate, namely, that one of the morals to be drawn from this transaction is that there should be fuller disclosure of the foreign policy of the Government to the country, and particularly to the House of Commons. In spirit I am in hearty sympathy with that desire. Of course, as all reasonable men must admit, as well as the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite, it has been expressly stated that diplomacy is of necessity a secret game. You cannot play with the cards on the table, the door open, and the blinds drawn up, so that every wayfarer may look in and every eavesdropper find out for himself some part, at any rate, of what is going on. Any country that carried on its diplomacy on those terms is a country whose diplomacy is foredoomed to futility and failure, and therefore I think I shall carry with me the universal sympathy of the House when I say that the processes of diplomacy must be carried on under the cloud of confidence and more or less of secrecy. But that is quite a different thing from stating that the purposes and aims of foreign policy should be kept in darkness from the representatives of the people. I want to say quite frankly that, so far as I and my colleagues are concerned, we cannot plead guilty to any such charge. Just see what the state of things has been in regard to foreign policy during the last six years—the period for which we have been the responsible Executive Government of the country. For the first time in living memory we have had the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs a Member of this House. That is a very great advantage, because it brings him, not only by that process of interrogation, which is pursued more assiduously than ever before, but by the opportunities which Members have here of informally talking to one another, into closer association with Members of the House of Commons than has ever been the case in the memory of anyone now in the House. I remember not so many years ago when the Foreign Secretary was in the House of Lords, and the Under-Secretary who represented him here was forbidden to answer supplementary questions.


The House passed a Resolution condemning him.


I forget that, but they were perfectly right if they did so. These were the conditions in which we were in those days when we groped about for information in regard to foreign policy. We have had the Foreign Office Vote put down whenever asked for, and in addition to that, the House possesses the constitutional opportunity also on the Second and Third Readings of every Consolidated Fund Bill, and on every Motion for the Adjournment of the House, which any Member can claim, of raising any question of foreign policy. If these opportunities have not been taken advantage of to the full extent—I do not mean the case of the Leader of the Opposition claiming a day for the discussion of foreign policy—but if these ordinary opportunities have not been taken advantage of, it is really not the fault of the Government. The Government had no option in the matter. They were at the mercy of the House, and the only inference we can draw as to the reason why these opportunities were not taken advantage of, is that the foreign policy pursued by my right hon. Friend met with the general approval and support of all parties in the House.

Let me come to the particular case we are dealing with to-day—the case of the negotiations with regard to Morocco. In view of the statement my right hon. Friend has made to-day, the facts are now perfectly clear. We heard for the first time on Saturday, 1st July, of the dispatch of this gunboat to Agadir, and the Cabinet met on the following Tuesday. As a result of the meeting of the Cabinet on 4th July, the communication which my right hon. Friend has read out to-day was made to the German Ambassador here. No answer to that communication was made to His Majesty's Government until 24th July, and when it was made on that date it was made, as my right hon. Friend has shown, in a statement, with the express stipulation that the main and most important part of it should not be communicated to Parliament until the Ambassador received the assent of his Government at home. On 27th July the communication which my right hon. Friend has read in extenso and described, and properly described, as a friendly communication from the Ambassador to the British Government, was made to him at the Foreign Office, and on the afternoon of that day, before two or three hours had elapsed, I took the opportunity in this House in a speech, which I daresay many hon. Gentlemen will remember, of making a full statement at the very first moment I possibly could, so that there should be no doubt whatever of what British policy in this matter was. I said:— Conversations are proceeding between France and Germany. We are not a party to those conversations. The subject matter of them may not affect British interests. On that point, until we know the ultimate result, we cannot express a final opinion. But— and this is the important part:— it is our desire that these conversations should issue in a settlement honourable and satisfactory to both parties, and of which His Majesty's Government can cordially say that it in no way prejudices British interests. We believe that to be quite possible; we earnestly and sincerely desire to see it accomplished. I say, therefore, that on the very first opportunity open to me as the head of the Government, I made that statement in the House of Commons, and from that moment onwards, at any rate, it is impossible, without doubting our sincerity and good faith, to believe that we were interposing or that we had any disposition to interpose, any obstacle to a satisfactory conclusion to these conversations, which were for what I might call compensation to be accorded to Germany in West Africa for the free hand given to France in Morocco, or that we were in any way indisposed to see that compensation as full as the joint negotiations between the two parties would allow so far as we were concerned, unless British interests were involved, and we did not think they were involved. We wished a prosperous and speedy issue to the negotiations. That was the policy announced to this House. At last these conversations did result in an agreement, and we were among the first cordially to welcome and congratulate the parties on the successful attainment of that agreement. I venture to say that the history of this transaction does not bear out the suggestion that there has been anything in the nature of concealment on the part of the Government. I should be very sorry if any such impression should get abroad, and I should be still more sorry, not only in this isolated case, but in the matter of general policy, that there should be the impression that we have any wish other than to take the House into the fullest confidence in every way consistent with the successful accomplishment of the purpose for which diplomacy is carried on.

I am really repeating in different words both what has been said by my right hon. Friend (Sir Edward Grey) and with much point and force by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Bonar Law). I have said that in these matters we are guided in our policy and governed by two main considerations—the safeguarding of British interests and the performance of Treaty obligations. I may add, and I think it is right to add, that we are influenced in our conduct outside of the strict letter of Treaty obligations by the desire to maintain in their full strength the friendships we have formed, and the understandings we have entered into, and which, as we believe, have been reciprocal between ourselves and our neighbours. But as I have said before elsewhere, so I repeat here to-night, and I am certain I shall have with me the assent of every Member in every quarter of the House, these friendships of ours are not of an exclusive or of a jealous character. If I may use and slightly adapt the metaphorical language in vogue in these days, I should say we do not want to stand in the light of any Power which wants to find its place in the sun. We have no such purpose. Maintaining that it is our interest and duty to maintain the friendships we have, we shall be all the more glad if we are able to enlarge their scope and to include within their pacific and reconciling influence other Powers than those with which we have hitherto been concerned. We have no cause to quarrel with any of the great Powers in the world of any sort of kind. The first of all British interests remains, as it has always been, the peace of the world, and for the attainment of that great purpose our diplomacy and policy is with single-mindedness directed.

8.0 P.M.


The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has during the recent negotiations enormously enhanced the reputation which he enjoys among hon. Members sitting on this side of the House. I have never ventured to criticise the right hon. Gentleman for his policy with regard to Morocco. I have never ventured to criticise the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the speech which he made, and to which allusion has already been made. Indeed, I look back upon that speech as one of those happy lapses from what I used to regard as a rather anæmic Imperialism to a more robust Imperialism, with which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer occasionally electrifies the political atmosphere, as well as some of the hon. Members who usually support him. But I do not desire to deal any further with the question of Morocco. The Prime Minister may be said to have wound up that portion of the Debate. I wish to refer to the happenings in Tripoli and Persia. I would ask the House to remember that the British Government, when called upon to deal with questions affecting Oriental countries, must always be influenced in its action by the fact that we ourselves are a great Mahomedan Power. The British Empire is proud to number among its citizens some 60,000,000 Mahomedans in India, and some 20,000,000 in Africa and other parts of the world. It is quite impossible, when the British Government is called upon to deal with problems which affect Moslem countries, either to deny or to ignore the sentiments of these people.

You may attach little or much importance to the movement known as PanIslamism—my hon. Friend the Member for Hull was disposed, I think, to minimise unduly the importance of the movement—but you cannot possibly deny the existence of the sentiment upon which that movement is based. The late Sultan of Turkey, when he wished to connect Constantinople with Mecca by rail, did not merely appeal to Turks, but to Mahomedans all over the world. It was by Mahomedans all over the world, and notably by Mahomedans in India, that a response was made to his appeal. I merely give that as an example of the sentiments which unite the Mahomedan world. For my own part, I am disposed to think that the solidarity of Islam has increased in recent years. Everybody who has given any study to the matter knows quite well that one of the great obstacles in the way of Pan-Islamism was the vast gulf which existed between the two great sects of Mahomedans, the Shia sect and the Sunni sect. It was quite true that not so long ago a Shia Mahomedan would sooner cut the throat of a Sunni Mahomedan than cut the throat of an infidel. I do not believe that that is true any longer. I believe that the great gulf is gradually closing up under pressure of forces outside. This further fact has to be borne in mind. The interest which is taken by Mahomedans in India in public affairs has received a great stimulus during recent years. The reform scheme of Lord Morley acted like a spur in arousing the Mahomedans from their apathy towards political events. They believed that their interests were threatened by the scheme, and the Government very soon realised that a new and by no means insignificant force had entered the political arena.

The increased interest aroused among Mahomedans in India has not been restricted to the reform scheme to which I have referred. Great and widespread enthusiasm greeted the appeal which was made to the Mahomedans of India to provide funds for the erection of a Mahomedan university in that country, and one has to remark the increased vigilance with which leading men of the Mahomedan world are looking towards the welfare of their co-religionists at the present time in regard to the situation at Tripoli. I believe, notwithstanding much that has been done by the present rulers of Turkey during recent years to alienate British friendship, the Turkish people, as distinct from their rulers, have undoubtedly the deep sympathy of the British people in this war, which has been brought down on their heads by the action of Italy. There are some hon. Members of this House, like the hon. Member for Coventry (Mr. D. Mason), who feel very strongly on this matter, and have even gone so far, I believe, as to urge His Majesty's Government to intervene and record an official protest against the action of Italy. So long as the hon. Member will confine his activity to convening public meetings in this country, at which British public opinion may find expression, and may make itself heard and felt, I am with him. But if he goes so far as to urge the British Government to intervene in the struggle now going on in Tripoli, I must part company with him. Such protests as that are perfectly useless unless you are prepared to follow them up by force of arms, and I do not think that anybody would suggest that at the present moment the British Government, should be called upon to take part actively by force of arms in the struggle which is going on. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Coventry has ever realised this fact, but if he has not I venture to commend it to him as a somewhat curious and interesting experience inhuman psychology, that the very people who attack the Government most violently for their expenditure on arms are almost invariably the people who clamour most loudly for the Government to go to war when other people indulge in hostilities.

If the British Government cannot intervene in that way, surely they can, and I hope they will, take the earliest available opportunity of making known to the Italian and Turkish Governments that they are prepared to offer their good offices, should opportunity occur, with a view to bringing the combatants together. I believe if that were done, all thinking Mahomedans in India would feel that the Government of this country was thoroughly alive to the responsibilities which it has in regard to them. Many meetings of Mahomedans have been held in India during the past few weeks, at which resolutions have been passed calling upon the Government to intervene and urging all Mahomedans in India to boycott Italian goods. But I have also noticed that since the declaration of neutrality by this country Mahomedans have been exceedingly careful to refrain as far as possible from taking any action which would be likely to embarrass the British Government. I have many resolutions here which have been passed by representative meetings of Mahomedans in India which show that they are alive to the difficulties of the situation, but are most anxious that the British Government should do what it reasonably can to offer its good offices with a view to bringing this war to an end.

I turn now to Persia. When I view the policy of His Majesty's Government with regard to Persia during recent years, I cannot think that its action has been particularly happy. I wish to make it quite clear that I do not in the least seek to minimise the responsibilities of the British Government towards its own nationalities, which it obviously must carry out. Great Britain has large trading interests in Persia. British subjects have sunk capital in enterprises an that country, and the British Government has Consuls and representatives scattered over the country to watch over these interests. That being so, when it comes about that owing to the inability of the Persian Government to keep order in that country trade is disorganised, those enterprises are threatened with ruin and the lives of English travellers and Consuls are rendered unsafe, then unquestionably the British Government is justified in taking such action as may be necessary to safeguard the interests of its own people. The patience and the toleration of disorder displayed by the British Government must have been well calculated to excite very keen resentment in the minds of those British subjects who had very considerable interests in Persia. What must these men have thought when, with regard to the policy of the British Government, they read, early in 1909, the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Grey's) own words— After full consideration of all the circumstances His Majesty's Government are disposed to think that the best course to adopt would be for Great Britain and Russia to stand entirely aloof from the internal affairs of Persia, allowing the existing chaos to remain, until whatever element is strongest gains the day. During this interval they would be prepared to face the danger which might be involved to British Consular interests. I suppose the right hon. Gentleman would describe that as an example of the policy of masterly inactivity. Certainly it is a policy of inactivity, but I am by no means convinced of the masterliness of it. This policy of allowing disorder to continue until the strongest element showed itself was followed until October of last year. The British Government then appear to have abandoned this policy of allowing chaos to proceed, irrespective of whether it affected British interests or not, and to have decided that it must itself take action. On the 14th October it presented an ultimatum to the Persian Government in which it declared that if order was not restored on the southern trade routes by Persia by the end of three months it would itself have to take action, with a view to the proper policing these routes. And it was further explained that what it pro posed to do, in the first instance, was that it favoured the organisation for the policing of the routes in question of a local force of some 1,200 men, drilled and commanded by a number of British officers from the Indian Army. Nothing was said at the time as to whom the officers in command of this force were to be responsible. It was generally supposed it was to be at liberty to take what steps it thought necessary for the safeguarding of British trader in consultation with the Britsh Minister at Teheran and other British Consular officials.

But a month after the ultimatum was presented to the Persian Government, it was explained that the officers of the Indian Army were really to be lent to Persia, and serve apparently under the Persian Government. It never appears to have occurred to the right hon. Gentleman to ask himself what he should do in the event of the Persian Government being unwilling to borrow the officers he proposed to lend them. That is precisely what the Persian Government did do, and the result was that chaos prevailed as before, and nothing was done by the British Government. What has become of the ultimatum of October, 1910? It seems that the ultimatum of the right hon. Gentleman was merely a ridiculus mus, and there has not been any improvement in the state of Persia. From the very interesting report of the British Vice-Consul at Bushire extracts have appeared in the Board of Trade Journal published a day or two ago. The report is dated 31st March, 1911. I will read one or two extracts to show that no improvement has taken place:— There was no immediate improvement after the issue of the British Note to Persia on October 14th, 1910. In November there was a movement of merchants, resulting in caravans returning to the Kazerun route, for the Firuzabad route becomes impassable after the rain. The first caravan to pass, consisting of 383 mules, was robbed, 184 loads and 260 mules being carried off. Between October and December merchants forwarded only at great risk. He goes on to say:— The state of the province of Fars prevented any supplies of goods which reached Shiraz from being distributed in the outlying districts, and in consequence the bazaars both in Bushire and Shiraz remained in a condition of spasmodic congestion. Pedlars, village dealers, and petty merchants could not circulate freely. I could quote many extracts, all pointing to the fact that there is no improvement whatsoever in the condition of the roads in Persia. Things have gone from bad to worse, the lives of Englishmen and Englishwomen have been imperilled, and the right hon. Gentleman has at last seen the necessity of sending a small reinforcement not to control the roads, but to protect the lives and property of English subjects in Persia. My criticism of the right hon. Gentleman in regard to these matters is that, in the first place, he delayed taking action far too long, and, in the second place, he took the wrong form of action. He attempted to take action which he found he was quite unable to carry out, the result being that nothing was achieved in the way of improvement, and that chaos went on as before, while the British Government looked exceedingly foolish. If you are not prepared to intervene further than the right hon. Gentleman has now intervened, how do you propose to set about improving the state of affairs in Persia? The right hon. Gentleman himself has given an answer to that question. He declared that if we were not prepared to intervene through policing the roads ourselves, we could not expect the trade conditions to improve, unless we saw the Government of the country itself becoming stronger. That is an admirable sentiment, and one with which I entirely agree. But what has the right hon. Gentleman done to assist the Persian Government to become stronger? He has apparently acquiesced in the action of Russian officials in Persia, who with the connivance, or if not with the connivance, at any rate without reprimand from the Russian Government, have engaged in a whole series of acts which are calculated to make the task of Persian regeneration almost an impossibility.

The hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Dillon) has referred to the rebellion raised by the ex-Shah of Persia, and he alluded to the fact that the right hon. Gentleman had not carried out the agreement with Persia to take steps to prevent the ex-Shah returning to that country and creating a rebellion. The right hon. Gentleman has perhaps travelled in Russia, and, if he has, he will know that a traveller in that country cannot move from place to place without the cognisance of the Russian, police. Yet the ex-Shah reached Persia from Russia, sailing from a Russian port in a Russian steamer, and one is inclined to ask what happened to the Russian passport system, which is a sufficiently severe one. Really, it is ridiculous to say that the Russians, in view of the fact that they possess this extremely strict passport system, were unaware of the ex-Shah's going to Persia. That is merely one example of the way in which Russian officers have encouraged what I look upon as the disintegration of Persia. I could give a good many more instances, only other Members wish to take part in the discussion. It is a most deplorable thing that the impression should get about that the Russian Government, with the acquiescence of the British Government, or Russian officials with the acquiescence of British officials, are indulging in a policy which is calculated to prevent the Persians from achieving their own salvation, and which must inevitably, I think, lead, in the long run, to the occupation by Russia of the Northern Provinces of Persia.

It is still more deplorable that the British Government should become tarred with the same brush; but there is no doubt whatsoever that this is the impression which is created in the mind of impartial observers by the policy of the right hon. Gentleman during the last few years in supporting Russia in her attitude towards Persia. The mere fact that the right hon. Gentleman refused to allow the Persian Government to avail itself of the only European officers that could be obtained in Persia, with a view to strengthening their administration, has given a great deal of colour to that impression. I know the right hon. Gentleman will say that it would be contrary to the spirit of the Anglo-Russian Agreement to look on while these British officers were engaged by the Persian Government in carrying out duties under that Government in the Russian sphere, it being only reasonable that Russia should dislike having British officers carrying out duties in the vicinity of the Russian frontier. But I would ask the House to remember that the Russian sphere, under the terms of the Anglo-Russian Agreement, includes an enormous territory, fully half of Persia, and it includes the capitals of Ispahan and Teheran, and places which are almost as close to the British frontier as they are to the Russian frontier. I hold no brief for the Persian Government. Indeed I am not at all sure as to the suitability of democratic Government to an oriental country. After all, the Persians have elected to try the experiment of representative Government, and all I ask is that they should be given a fair chance. When the right hon. Gentleman signed the Anglo-Russian Agreement, he included what practically amounted to a guarantee of the independence and the integrity of Persia. He was very explicit in the Note which he caused to be presented to the Persian Government explaining the provisions and objects of the Anglo-Russian Agreement of 1907. I need not quote the words because they have already been quoted by the hon. Member for East Mayo. The policy of the British Government then was quite clear, and in my opinion it was a right policy. I believe it to be most desirable on strategic grounds, on political grounds, and on grounds of equity, that we should do all that lies in our power to retain a strong and independent Persia. The right hon. Gentleman has himself subscribed to that belief. All that I ask he should do would be to so order his actions in the future that they accord with the belief which he has professed.


It is a very welcome change for us private Members to be speaking to-day with a full knowledge of the facts in regard to the subject that we wish to discuss. We are very often, or we are apt to be, in quite another position in a Foreign Office Debate. The Foreign Office attitude towards us is somewhat like that of the English lady who was journeying in Italy towards the natives. She made no remarks to the Italians, and her friends asked her why when she could speak Italian freely she would not do so. She said, "They are only foreigners, it only encourages them." That is the attitude we are accustomed to from the Foreign Office; but it is a very welcome change that we know fully what has passed in recent months in regard to at least one of the topics being raised today. I wish to recur for a moment to the subject of Anglo-German relations, and though I know that there are objections to full and free discussion of the Anglo-German question, I think, and many of us think, it is very desirable that the feeling which is widespread in the country now, should be voiced in Parliament, because there is a very great change in public feeling and a very great increase of public anxiety on this matter. This year has been a year of great sensational foreign events, and of the six great events which may be called first-class events—that is to say, Morocco, Tripoli, Turkey, Persia, American arbitration, and China—no fewer than four are underlaid by the Anglo-German question.

The friction between England and Germany is, therefore, a topic which covers and takes precedence of many others. Just let me give an example of what I mean. The Noble Lord who has just spoken will realise the connection between the Anglo-German question and the Turkish question. The Turkish reformers, confronted with the most difficult problem in the world, have never had a chance, and why—because within three months of their famous revolution the Bosnian coup took place, and destroyed their prestige. What was the cause of the Bosnian coup? It was the friction between England and Germany, and since that, instead of help from the two greatest Powers acting together, they have been favoured with the continual struggle between the Anglophile party and the Germanophile party, each of them headed by an embassy or closely connected with an embassy, as the hon. Member for Hull has pointed out. To-day it is very welcome news to us that, as we gather from the speech of the Foreign Secretary, a great attempt is to be made to open a new chapter in Anglo-German relations. What I want to dwell upon, for a few moments, as the result of some knowledge of German conditions, is that this task, welcome as it is, is a very heavy task, not to be accomplished without very arduous work, because the feeling in Germany is one of deep resentment at what appeared to have been on our part for many years past a policy of distrust—a policy, not only anti-German in matter, but markedly anti-German in manner. These are things which in ordinary times it would no doubt be better to leave un-discussed in public, but to-day the Foreign Secretary set us an example in an extremely frank exposition. Things have been said by him which are bound to give rise to irritation in Germany, but he has set the example of talking freely of the question, because it is desirable there should be clarification. That is the word in which the German Chancellor finally expressed the need of the moment.

Clarification is what is wanted. The past has got to be explained. The ill-feeling in Germany is based on misunderstanding which to some extent has been removed, and will be very largely removed by the statements of the Foreign Secretary to-day. For a long time, during nearly three months, to the German point of view it appeared that the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was a somewhat wanton affront, which was deliberately left unexplained. There might have been an explanation given, but it remained until about a fortnight ago, when a well-known writer, Dr. Bernstein, in the "Vorwärtz," explained that the speech was the result of the failure to answer communications on the part of the German Government. That, during those three months, was absolutely unknown to the German people, and to no one but a very small number of officials in Germany. Why the withholding of that explanation has been so long sustained by the Foreign Office I hope we shall know better this evening, but it has been the cause of very bitter feeling, and a bitter feeling which it appears to us might have been avoided. Happily, at all events after to-day, the Foreign Secretary's statement will clarify that situation, but it is just as well for us to know that almost the sole cause of this indignation has been that speech. The anti-English feeling has been due to ignorance of the cause, and the unfriendliness, it is worth noting, too, cut all the deeper (and I speak of the impression as it came through German minds, and nor, as an impression which was justified, but it undoubtedly gave an impression of unfriendliness that could not be explained, and which cut very deep) because the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not only a great admirer and follower of German social institutions, but he is also the most keenly discussed figure in Europe, and, as such, he is the most responsible in matters of international feeling. He is not like a good many English people, blind to the point of view of the other party. He is highly sensitive to it, and he, at all events, will surely leave no stone unturned to correct the disastrous impression that has been maintained in Germany.

When the fog has been lifted, as it will, I trust, be lifted after to-day, it will be better, no doubt, to ignore the past, and we may surely trust that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose influence is supreme in so many things, will throw all his influence in favour of a lead towards a better situation and a more tolerable situation, for it has been intolerable, if such a situation can be found. A new chapter, we gather, is to be opened. The exceptional friction, because it has only been exceptional for the last three months, is to be forgotten, as we hope, and that is the desire of all parties. It was very remarkable that (not at all among the Governmental parties alone, but, as we have learned from the interesting speech of the Leader of the Opposition to-day, equally upon the other side, equally expressed by Unionists papers, with the papers of all other sections of opinion) there is a great desire for a new chapter in regard to German relations. The means towards this improvement are freely suggested by the Press of all parties. Now that the need of our international position and the dangers of the past summer have been revealed, all parties realise that it was desirable that the imminence of those dangers should be appreciated, because it has led public attention to the question of policy. I hardly think the Foreign Secretary was justified in attributing to a desire for mischief that clarification which has been indulged in by a large section of the Press. There are papers which occasionally indulge in scaremongering, but it is very noticeable that the divulgation of the danger of the summer has been made rather more by the anti-scaremongers than by the scaremongering papers. Surely an honest motive may be assigned for bringing forward the fact of the danger—a motive in this respect, that nothing short of a danger leads the public-to take an interest in foreign policy and to examine what is the cause of this intolerable situation between ourselves and Germany.

Various means of progress have been brought forward. One is in regard to the Parliamentary machine. There is a great desire, indicated to some extent by the Leader of the Opposition, for a rather more frequent explanation of the general outlines—not, of course, the negotiations—of our diplomacy. There is also a demand for the introduction of some further systematisation into our diplomacy. Ours is one of the few diplomacies which are not based upon an interchange of the diplomatic and consular services. There may be improvements in that respect which, I say, are being advocated by many of our newspapers. But, after all, the German question is too urgent to wait for the Reports of Royal Commissions on diplomatic methods. People are asking what progress is to be made now while we have this situation: on our side, great dissatisfaction with the stutus quo; and on the other side the German Chancellor, who has been so justly lauded today, defying the war spirit and definitively expressing a hope that a new policy will be opened—as he expresses it—"a new policy written on a clean slate." Then we have writers like Dr. Schiemann, in Germany, associated with very different views, now advocating the necessity of a new chapter. The Foreign Secretary says that the close of the Moroccan negotiations enables friendship in the future, as it has not been enabled in the past, to exist. This will be a task to try the mettle of any Foreign Secretary. I would speak freely, and say that for a Liberal Foreign Secret ary the task is always one of extraordinary difficulty. His instruments are not always sympathetic, and he must exert himself very powerfully to overcome the natural impression which is given, and which certainly has been given in past years, in a sense quite unsympathetic with Liberal policy by the diplomatic representatives of the Foreign Office abroad. What are the obstacles which exist in the way of improved relations? Is it a question of German colonies? Is it a question of coaling stations? Is there a certain aggressive demand for colonial expansion in Germany? Or is it a question of Continental prestige? What I think has really been at the bottom of our trouble is on both sides a sense of profound distrust; that is to say, a feeling widespread in this country, and I am afraid prevalent to some extent in the official world, that the Kaiser—for, after all, one must recognise, as events have shown, that the Kaiser is the supreme authority in Germany—is some danger to the world; that he is in fact the modern Napoleon Buonaparte. It is a delicate topic, representing a cause of distrust which cannot be officially stated, and which even a private individual would rather leave to private conversation. But there is a point where public urgency justifies the Press in these days in dragging this delicate topic to the light.

This is the fundamental cause which has vitiated our relations. We have heard a great deal about the Cartwright incident, and I think we are not unjustified in bringing it into a Debate of this kind. Where there is so great a smoke there must be some fire. While I cordially endorse the rule that no official is justly discussed in public, the Foreign Secretary would certainly wish to hold himself responsible for all the impressions, right or wrong, that his representatives abroad have given. Undoubtedly there has been given in Europe by our diplomatic representatives the impression that there is grave distrust and a positive bias held by many of them, and some of them the most important, towards one side of the European combinations. It is probably advisable that that should be talked about in the House. Though officials are properly immune, I think it cannot be contradicted that this impression has been made in Germany. It is a perfectly honest impression, and represents no prejudice on their part, but they have not been able on any other hypothesis to explain the attitude of our diplomacy or the general outline of our policy. Against the theory of German aggressiveness there is a great deal to be said. Well-informed persons may have knowledge which we amateurs are entirely without, and which may disprove any view of ours. It is not enough for amateurs to argue that the distrust is unfounded. We do not know the facts, and, therefore, we do not entirely trust our opinion. But on such a vital point we may well inquire whether the Foreign Office has furnished itself with the opinion of persons who are known to be great experts in the matter. There are, for instance, Sir Frederick Lascelles, who is the only ex-diplomat or acting diplomat that we have with very long experience of Germany; and Mr. Dawson, the well-known writer on German questions, who is now an official in the Treasury. On this question of German ambition one hopes that these experts may have been consulted by the Foreign Office. To all seeming they have expressed very different views. At any rate, Sir Frederick Lascelles has expressed very different views on public occasions quite recently. The Foreign Secretary will naturally ask us: "What is it you want to do?"

It is a welcome thing indeed that he has to-day indicated something definite; something beyond the common forms of expression of goodwill which we are accustomed to at Guildhall banquets, and, as a rule, in Foreign Office Debates. He has said something quite definite, which, I think, marks a very great advance. He has faced the question of recognising German ambitions. He has acted upon the formula which the Prime Minister used the other day—that is the formula, "the recognition of the legitimate aspirations of Germany." He has gone so far as to mention one field in which our attitude in the future will be a friendly attitude towards Germany, or at least not unfriendly. He said where there may be opportunities for Germany acquiring colonies which are not ours there we shall not compete. That is something definite. It is not, after all, very much. But it is a measure of the very slight amount of recognition which we have accorded in the past. It is an undertaking that we will not act "the dog in the manger." But for what it is worth, it is something definite, and something for which we may be thankful.

He may fairly ask us: What is it you complain of in the action of the Foreign Office towards Germany, and what is it you want us to do?" Not a very fair question for those who are without information, but one which justifies us in raising the very delicate matter of the entente, which has already been so freely handled by the Foreign Secretary. The sphere of action in which we have to define what we want to be done is in the conduct of the entente. That policy is not only indicated in definite acts, but in the nuances of diplomatic negotiations. If we want to indicate our policy we must indicate the function that we would assign to our entente. The Anglo-French Agreement of April, 1904, was based, in the first place, on convenience. We signed it because we had disputes, Colonial disputes, with France. We greatly profited by the Agreement of April, 1904. Secondly, it involved an agreement for defence, whatever secret agreement existed also. But may we not now ask: "Is not your agreement for defence perfectly compatible with an agreement with an understanding for defence with every European State?"—an equally firm undertaking towards any other Power, which might be Belgium or even Germany? Thirdly, the Agreement of 1904 included an agreement to help France to acquire Morocco. It bound us to give diplomatic support—and there is no stronger word than that in the Agreement of 1904—diplomatic support to France in her desire to exclude Germany from political influence in Morocco.

It is true that the Liberal Government are not responsible for the Agreement. They are responsible only for the subsequent interpretation of it, by which we felt bound to aid France with physical force. How is this bound to appear to Germans? We are not great experts at putting ourselves in the position of the other side in political matters. It is worth bearing in mind that if there is ill-feeling in Germany it is due to anything but a total misunderstanding of our attitude. It is due to the necessary appearance given by our Agreements of 1904, and our subsequent conduct of them. I think really it is fair to indicate the German point of view by a crude metaphor. The Agreement gave the entente the character of a bargain between two boys to exclude the third boy from the cake. If the German methods have been risky in consequence, are the Germans to blame, or are we? The German Government no doubt on many occasions—several definite occasions—adopted what by a sort of metaphor might be called "shock tactics" in their diplomacy. Has not that method been unavoidable in view of what appeared to them to be an isolating and exclusive agreement? Supposing the two boys had also taken nearly all previous cakes and left the third boy nothing but a biscuit. Surely, after the cake had been eaten, you would say, "Do not snub the third boy any more, but start afresh and make it up!"

What I venture to put in a crude way is that this really indicates the point of view which has been undeniably created in Germany. There is an answer given to such an argument, which I have inadequately expressed. It is: "The Germans would not respond. Look at Agadir. Tangier, and the Kruger telegram!" I would reply to them, "You have not given them a chance. Look at Morocco, look at Walfisch Bay, look at the Map of the World!" Realise how these things appear to the Germans. Let us be very glad that to-day the Colonial question has been definitely faced by the Foreign Secretary. There is a rough sense of justice in British minds which I think justifies my crude parable, and which the Foreign Office ought to remember. We have come to feel shy at associating morals with diplomacy. I do not think it will be quite appropriate on the whole to forget in this connection Mr. Gladstone. Mr. Gladstone said a rather appropriate thing:— That is indeed an ascendancy to which we might reasonably aspire, to sustain the character of a Power no leas just than strong, jealous of honour, and therefore adverse to clandestine engagements, which have marked our later years. Curiously appropriate words, when we realised for the first time on Friday that for seven years we have been bound to allot a share of Morocco to Spain, and bound Spain not to alienate that portion to any other Power.

Friendship with Germany, if it can be accomplished, is a policy of self-interest. We agreed with France because we had awkward disputes with her. The disputes of the future may very probably be with Germany over Turkey. I hope not, but there is no saying but that Turkey may be the great problem of the future. If you make it up with Germany that trouble will solve itself. The Foreign Secretary pointed out how the troubles with France melted away. If you cannot make it up with Germany it will be a very costly thing. What we want, I think, is simply the Prime Minister's formula: "The recognition of German aspirations" put into actual practice: the recognition of the legitimate ambitions of Germany in matter and also in manner. The special obligations of the entente are fulfilled in Morocco, as well as other obligations to France arising out of the Agreement of 1904. Only defence remains. By all means let us keep our word with the utmost rigidity, but why not, in addition to our obligations to France, have a rapprochement with Germany?

We have heard it repeatedly from the Foreign Secretary that the two are not incompatible, and defence, which is the sole principle left of the entente, is one of the general obligations upon which we may equally support the status quo of all European frontiers, French or German. The French entente, certainly in German eyes, inevitably did wear an aspect of aggressive alliance. That was not our intention. In the future let us hope it will no longer wear such aspect. But so long as it did, it constituted, I think, it is fair to say, a breach of trust towards public opinion, because there was no such intention in the original framers of the French entente. Public opinion will give the most warm support to the work, for a long time, it may be, carried on in secret, for building up a rapprochement with Germany, and we can only rejoice to-day that it appears that logic is to triumph over prejudice, and that we are to see a saner rule adopted in the future—predominance of power without provocation; strength (which is necessary to our position in the world; overwhelming strength in armed force) combined with friendship.


There was one-passage in the speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down which I hope I misunderstood. He spoke as though the supreme power in the German Empire was a factor for war, and not for peace. I hope I misunderstood him, because from all the information I have got I am quite convinced in this, that if unhappily a war on the part of Germany should occur it would come from below and not from above. Perhaps I misunderstood the hon. Gentleman in a passage that was, if I may say so, a little obscure. I should like to emphasise a point taken by a speaker earlier in the day, that this Moroccan crisis which we hope is now happily over cannot be looked upon as an isolated case. It is a symptom of chronic and deep-seated trouble, and is not the first. There was the first Moroccan crisis which ended in the dislodgment of M. Delcassé, then there was the trouble over the Balkan crisis, in which Bulgaria and Austria were involved, and there was the retirement of Russia from the point of view she took up on that occasion. What I feel very much concerned about is, although we have passed happily through, three of these crises, each one more difficult than the other, unless something is done we may drift on, thinking the trouble is over, to a fourth crisis, when it may be too late.

9.0 P.M.

There seems to me to be two schools of thought with regard to our relations with Germany. One school of thought think that a little more goodwill and self-restraint upon the part of our newspapers and more opportunities of meeting for the different classes of each people would make everything right. I am sure that is a complete delusion. When national passions are aroused no amount of blandishment would produce any real cure. There is another school of thought that seem to think a conflict is absolutely inevitable, and to go so far as to say the sooner it comes the better. That, I believe, is also a misconception, and an exceedingly dangerous one. I do not believe it is inevitable, but I believe it may come if we shut our eyes to the real elements in this matter. I would ask the House, so far as it is possible, to try to enter into what I believe to be the real state of German public opinion. I do not mean the official position of the Government, but the state of German public opinion as felt by the average patriotic German. Germany is a country welded together after two tremendous struggles, in 1866 and in 1870, and since then it has a prodigious development of its empire. It has had an enormous development in trade, in the applied sciences, and in everything that gives strength and adornment to a State.

It is not unnatural that patriotic Germans should look rather farther afield, and that they should look not unnaturally to having not only a strong, rich State at home, but places in other parts of the world as well. But when they do look out beyond their own country what do they see? They see great parts of the world parcelled out and occupied by other countries. They see particularly in our own case, east, south, and west, some of the most fertile and richest parts of the world in our occupation. They look to the Mediterranean and they see each door of it in our possession; they see their over-sea commerce pass under the guns of English ships. Not only that, but they see other nations whom they cannot regard as in the same light as ourselves, free to pursue oversea enterprises perhaps largely with our assistance and our countenance given them. I say it is not at all unnatural that there should be a feeling of envy in these circumstances, and more so because they see we have obtained our Empire without any of the sacrifices they had to make to obtain independence. We have never known foreign invasion, never had to submit to conscription, and until recent years we have not known for generations what heavy taxation was. Therefore this feeling in Germany is a natural one and one we must take account of whatever the language of the German Government be. And taking account of this feeling, how are we to meet it? I say there are ways that we can meet it quite consistent both with our honour and our riches. There are certain things we may not do. I do not think it could ever be proposed by any section again that we should make further proposals for the reduction of armament until other questions are settled, and to give an example of disarmament would, I think, be little less than treason. Nor may we drop our allies; that would be contrary to both honour and interest. I have no special sympathy with the French nation, and I hold in detestation the internal policy of their recent Governments; but, after all, they are our allies, and we cannot in honour let them go. Even if our honour did not prevent us from dropping our allies, it could not be to our interests to see one of the great Powers of Europe crushed down, knowing that the extra force that would accrue to the victor in that struggle would be turned against ourselves. Therefore, any settlement must include our allies and must not be in agreement merely between two countries, but we must take our allies in as well. Surely there is room in the world for more than the Union Jack and the Tri-colour. I believe if the aim is approached in both a reasonable and genuine spirit upon both sides that it will be found perfectly consistent with our honour and our interests and that there is room for the natural claim of extension for Germany that would not be inconsistent either with our claims or those of our allies.

I know it will be suggested that any overture will be interpreted as a symptom of fear, but I think that is rather a low view to take. I do not suggest that any overtures are necessary, but I think it will be possible for statesmen to meet informally and, at any rate, get at one another's minds in order to find out what is at the bottom of the mind of the German people. Let us find out what they want, and then we can consider how far we can go to meet them. I do not think there is any deliberate intention to be aggressive on the part of Germany. They have a tremendous length of frontier on the East, and they also have fiscal difficulties owing to their federal system which prevent expansion of revenue. They have a vicious banking system, leading to unduly inflated industry; their allies are weakened by racial divisions. Polish trouble will always remain a source of weakness to them. For these reasons I do not think any German Government would embark upon a deliberate war of aggression against any Western Power. There is, however, this feeling among the German people which we have to take account of, and if things are allowed to drift they may force the hands of the German Government, just as happened in the past with the British Government. Therefore I say a little more than a general expression of goodwill is necessary. We ought to approach the negotiations knowing exactly what our whole obligations are and knowing exactly how far we can go. If we do this, I cannot see why something should not be done at once. I noted that the Foreign Secretary spoke of the breeze blowing the wrong way, and that we must not force the pace. I want to do neither one nor the other. I want to approach the question in exactly the same spirit as I should ask a neighbour who was troublesome to state his case, so that litigation might be avoided. There is no weakness or dishonour in that, and I cannot see why something of the kind should not be undertaken at, once. I hope we shall make it quite clear that we are not going to disarm, but that we want a general understanding upon friendly and business lines. I cannot see why that cannot be done. If the effort is made, and it fails, we have our Fleet, and what is left to us of our credit, and if a struggle does come, we should then go into it with a clear conscience.


In common with other hon. Members of the House, I have listened with a great deal of interest to the speech made by the Foreign Secretary this afternoon. The past is only helping to throw light upon the path which should be pursued in the future. The concluding part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was rather disappointing. The opportunity was such as seldom occurs to a Minister. There has been and there is a tension of feeling in Germany, and there is a carefully fostered suspicion entertained in this country. There is also the approach made publicly by the German Chancellor for a better understanding between Germany and ourselves. That is the part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech which I find most disappointing. Instead of the response being sympathetic and even eager, it was cold and stilted, and, so far as I can make out, it went no further than an expression of gratification that Germany intended to be and was preparing to be strong but not aggressive. A clean slate was held out to the Foreign Secretary for a message of peace and goodwill towards Germany. It was held out by German hands, and that was the message inscribed upon it. Why all this suspicion of Germany? What right have we to assume that Germany is either warlike or antagonistic to this country? For years Germany has maintained peace, and on more than one occasion the head of the German Empire has exerted his influence on the side of peace.

The hon. Member opposite, who has just sat down (Mr. James Hope), has acknowledged that fact by saying that danger did not come from the top, but from the bottom. If he is referring to the working classes, and especially the organised Socialist movement in Germany, which embodies such a large proportion of the working classes, I may tell him that there is even less danger from that quarter than from the top. I want to make it clear that there is even less danger of an outbreak of hostility or of the fostering of bad feeling towards this or any other country on the part of the working classes of Germany than there is at the top. I think I am justified in saying that the response made by the Foreign Secretary was not such as the best elements in his own party had anticipated. His statement is not what the "Daily News" led us to expect from the Foreign Secretary. There is another aspect of the question. It may be that the offer made by the German Chancellor was none too rosy, and I at once admit it. But remember the circumstances under which he was speaking. He was speaking to a hostile Reichstag, smarting under what he believed to be a reflection upon his general diplomacy. There was a feeling in the Reichstag and in the country that German interests and German honour had not been upheld. He was speaking in the presence of that feeling in the Reichstag, and knowing of its existence outside. Therefore, he had to approach the subject tentatively and cautiously. The Foreign Secretary here this afternoon was in no such position. He had a House of Commons which, as the speeches from every quarter have shown, is sympathetic towards a good understanding with Germany, and which would have hailed with enthusiasm any general effort made by the Foreign Secretary to meet the German Government and come to an understanding.

The matter does not end there. The naval law of Germany is about to expire, and a, new naval law will have to be framed. The expenditure on that new naval law will depend to a very large extent on the relations existing between the German Empire and our own. If it is continued to be strained and full of suspicion, a demand will exist in Germany for a very large extension of the navy. If that proposal is made in Germany, it will be followed by a demand in this country, not only from the Noble Lord opposite (Lord Charles Beresford), from whom one must expect such things, remembering who and what he is and what his life has been, but from both sides of this House, for a corresponding increase of our own, and one of the outcomes of the speech this afternoon may be a very large addition indeed, and a wholly unnecessary addition, to the naval expenditure both of Germany and of Great Britain.

Some reference has already been made to Persia and to the the position which this country and Russia occupy in relation to Persia. It cannot have escaped the observation of all who have been following recent events in the world of international politics that the whole tone of these is mean and sordid. There is no great high-sounding humanitarian note; there is no great patriotic note. Take the whole of the agreements concluded during the past five or six years between this country and other countries about Egypt, about Morocco, and about Persia, and what we are concerned with is not the protection of the liberties of the peoples of these countries, not the protection of the honour of the people of this country, but the protection of profits and dividends. Our international politics are dominated by trade considerations. Germany, France, Italy, and Great Britain can all be classed together in this connection.

We were told this afternoon by the Foreign Secretary that it was a matter for congratulation that the Moroccan question had been honourably settled. I do not know in what sense the term "honourably" is to be taken. An agreement was come to between Great Britain and France, Spain intervening, that on condition France did not object to the indefinite prolongation of the British occupation of Egypt, Great Britain did not object to France and Spain obtaining spheres of influence in Morocco; but the independence of Morocco was to be safeguarded and protected, and all the three consenting Powers to the agreement undertook to uphold and to maintain the independence of Morocco. Almost before the ink was dry upon the agreement to maintain and uphold the independence of Morocco, France was moving an army towards Fez to protect people who were never in danger, and to destroy the last vestige of the independence of that country.

Whilst trade, commerce and profits are undoubtedly the dominating influences at work in the minds of European statesmen, that is not so with Russia. Her object in intervening in Persia cannot be the extension of her trade and commerce. Russia has unlimited scope within the confines of her own empire for all the extensions of her trade and commerce that is likely to take place for many years to come. Why then does she want to interfere in Persia? Chiefly for military and strategical reasons, and it is here where what I respectfully submit to be the real interests of this country are being sacrificed in the interests of the trader and the investor. I am old enough to remember when the time of the great bugbear of the East was an invasion of India by Russia by way of Afghanistan. That was made the pretext for building up a great and powerful army in India, for spending many lacs of rupees in fortifying passes through which the Russian army would require to march on its way to invade India. All that has passed away. There is no longer any apprehension of an invasion of India by Russia by way of Afghanistan. Now we are encouraging Russia to set up new frontiers, which would make it comparatively easy for Russia, should she be so minded, to invade India from that direction. I do not say Russia has any such intention, but the very fact that that becomes a possibility, through the Russian frontier being moved into the heart of Persia, will provide a further justification for maintaining a great army in India; for a great expenditure upon military in that country; and for a greater army here at home for the protection of our overseas Empire. Here also we find the same sample of interna-national honour as was operative in Morocco. Russia and Great Britain agreed to co-operate together in maintaining the independence and integrity of Persia, and from then up till now the chief objects of both countries seems to have been to devise ways and means as well as excuses for invasions of Persian territory and the destruction of the powers of its rulers. Persia is now, after many years' efforts, in possession of a reformed Parliament and all the prospects in that ancient. Empire point to its acquiring a new lustre under the operations of the men who have purged it of the impurities and corruptions which obtained under the old Government. They have established a new Government on constitutional and clean lines, and now, forsooth, Great Britain, the friend of the oppressed, the champion of small nations turning to liberty, deliberately enters into an alliance with Russia, the object of which is to bring that Power within Persia, where for a certainty it will trample out relentlessly whatever vestiges of constitutional Government there might be set up in that country.

Nor is that all. The Foreign Secretary of the British Government, and the ruling classes generally, profess to be very jealous of national honour where Germany is concerned. How comes it to be that the men who are so jealous of their honour and of the honour of their country when these are supposed to be attacked by Germany, are so lifeless in the observance of a like code of honour in matters where Russia is concerned? I will take as an example two instances which have been referred to in the Debate this afternoon. Major Stokes, a British officer is invited by the Persian Government to accept a position under it for the reorganisation of the Persian forces. The British Government, cognisant of the fact, allowed Major Stokes to resign his commission in the British Army. But after this had been done Russia puts down her foot and says, "No, we will not allow Major Stokes to be employed." Whereupon the British Government, which is so jealous of its honour, accepts a snub from Russia and informs the Persian Government that it must not employ Major Stokes in certain parts of the country. Take again the case of Mr. Morgan Shuster, an American gentleman of great experience, evidently a man of ability and grit. He was called in to help organise the internal finances of Persia. He was appointed Treasurer-General for that purpose. But for some reason or other Mr. Morgan Shuster proved objectionable to Russia, and he, being an honest man, one can understand that. Once more the demand has gone forth that Mr. Morgan Shuster shall be dismissed from his position because, forsooth, he has given offence to the Russian Government at St. Petersburg. Fortunately, perhaps, for Persia, and for Europe, Mr. Morgan Shuster is not a British subject. He is an American citizen, and it is quite possible that the United States Government may have something to say before his case is finally disposed of. Is the Foreign Office a consenting party to this? We know it was in the case of the treatment meted out to Major Stokes. We would like to know if it is in the case of Mr. Morgan Shuster?

Finally, I would like to ask, is the Anglo-Russian Agreement concerning the integrity of Persia to be kept? Has it only been prepared for public consumption? Is it only to be a mask behind which the destruction of Persian independence and nationhood is to be effected? Are we to go on talking about helping to maintain the independence of Persia, and, at the same time on our own part, by cognizance of what is being done by others, are we going to help to destroy their independence and integrity. I think the country has a right to expect to be told the intentions of the Governments with regard to Persia. If we are simply there as supporters of Russia the sooner the truth is known the better. Why should the British Government go out of its way to single out Russia for its special frendship and its special favours, and why should it also go out of its way to snub and drive into a corner the German Empire? That is one of the mysteries which I do not profess to be able to fathom.

I come to the last point I intend to deal with to-night. All this rivalry, all this chicanery in high places, all this destruction of the liberties of nations, is being done for the purpose and with the object which such men as Mr. Norman Angell are prepared to prove, namely, that the nation which desires to extend its trade, and which stands the best change of doing so is not the nation which creates colonies all round the world and adds largely to its own expenditure at home, but is the nation which extends its trade and commerce on business lines, keeps down taxation, and follows sedulously the arts of peace. The trouble, so far as this trouble is concerned, has been the secrecy with which our foreign affairs have been conducted. The Prime Minister this afternoon told us that we were free to ask questions about foreign affairs. We are. But the foreign Secretary is equally free not to answer How often have Members of this House been told that it was inconsistent with the stage which negotiations had reached that any public statement should be made concerning them? If we are still free to ask questions, the opportunities which formerly existed for frequent debate on foreign affairs have been very considerably curtailed. The Prime Minister told us there will still be Motions for Adjournment, there will still be Appropriation Bills, as occasions upon which we may discuss foreign policy, but surely matters which affect not merely expenditure upon the Army and Navy, but also, it may be, our very existence as a nation, are too important to be discussed as one of half a dozen items when an Appropriation Bill is going through, or when a Motion for the Adjournment of the House is under consideration. Further than that, it must not be forgotten that blocking notices may prevent even that form of discussion.

More light requires to be let into the dark places of diplomacy. The international Socialist candidates, as part of their policy, have declared that in every country where Parliamentary Government obtains no treaty with another Power should be signed until it has been ratified by the Parliament. Then at least the Parliament would know what it is doing, and it would know why the treaty has been entered upon. That does not give anyone the power to pry into the workings of negotiations which lead up to the treaty being signed, but after things have been concluded and the treaty is ready for signature, we demand that before the people of the country, whose representatives we are supposed to be, are committed to issues of the gravest kind they shall first know what those issues are, and have the opportunity of endorsing or rejecting them. What we have heard to-day is not such as to enhance our opinion of those who conduct international politics in high places. I do not know how the rest of the House felt when the Foreign Secretary was telling us how on one occasion the German Ambassador, Count Metternich, called upon him, and our Foreign Secretary asked for some explanation about the presence of the German warship at Agadir. Count Metternich replied, "I shall tell you nothing about Agadir until you have explained Lloyd George's speech." Then the Foreign Secretary replied, "I shall not explain Lloyd George's speech until you have told us about the presence of the warship at Agadir." At the moment when peace or war was trembling in the balance these two statesmen of international repute were behaving like some schoolchildren—"You shall not play in my backyard" kind of thing.

These are the men, forsooth, whom we are asked to trust implicitly with the arrangement and control of our foreign affairs. We claim that the whole of these concerns, in their final stages at least, and before they are sealed and settled beyond the possibility of denunciation, shall first be submitted to the approval of the Parliaments the people have elected. We have brought practically every affair of Government under public control. It now remains for the democracy to compel foreign relationships to be treated as openly and as much in the light of day as any other relationship. If I am told that to do so involves danger, I reply that no danger which open publicity in regard to foreign treaties before being signed could create, would weigh in the balance for one moment against the dangers which diplomacy, working, in the dark, creates without our knowledge and consent. If we are to be a democracy at all then this last remnant of the old powers of the privileged classes must take its place like everything else. If we had less finesse about our foreign relationships we should have more honesty and more honour, and the result will be to the gain of all concerned.

Colonel YATE

The hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) told us a short time ago that had war broken out in July, not one hundred people in the country would have known what it was about. If there was one thing which brought home to the people of this country the seriousness of the situation, it was the fact of the dispatch of a German warship to Agadir and the possibility of the establishment at Agadir of a fortified naval base, with its important bearing upon our commerce and our food supplies in time of war. That made the question of vital interest to us. I do not want to dwell on the question of Morocco any further. I should like to refer to the question of the feeling aroused among our Indian Mahomedan fellow-subjects in regard to the war between Italy and Turkey. I would like to impress upon my Indian Mahomedan friends that the war between Italy and Turkey is a war of nations and not of religions. It is quite true that the Turks are Mahomedans, that the Arabs are Mahomedans, and that we have 60,000,000 Mahomedan subjects in India, and many millions in other parts of the world, but we must remember also that the Turks and the Arabs themselves have for years past been at bitter war with each other in Arabia. We were not asked to interfere with the Arabs for the Turks or with the Turks for the Arabs, and we cannot interfere on the part of the Turks against the Italians, or on the part of the Italians against the Turks. This is a war of nations and in no way connected with religion. Although our Indian friends are sending us telegrams and representations on the subject, I think they will acknowledge that it is our duty to do the best we can for both sides, and that we cannot interfere upon one side or the other. I say this because my sympathy with Mahomedans is well known. I have lived among them for years, in Persia, Afghanistan, Arabia, and Baluchistan. I think the sympathy between the British and the Turks, and especially the Turkish soldiers, has lasted ever since the old days we fought together in the Crimean war. We know that many English officers served in the Turkish Army during that war. How strongly the friendship between the two races still exists was brought to my mind by a doctor, who was attached to one of the Red Cross or Geneva Conventions, and who went out to do duty with the Turkish forces during the last Russian-Turkish war. He was talking over the matter with me one night, and he said, "Turkish soldiers used to come to me night after night and say, 'You are an Englishman. When are you English coming to help us? Your officers lead us; our officers drive us.'" No greater compliment could be paid by the soldiers of one nation to the soldiers of another than what was said by Turkish soldiers at that time. That was the feeling of respect of one brave man for another. All English officers acknowledge what grand fighters the Turkish soldiers are, and the respect is mutual. I ask my Indian friends not to consider this as a religious war of Christians against Mahomedans, but as a war of nations, and to put the question of religion out of court altogether. I do not know of any single instance in which the interests of our Mahomedan subjects in any part of the world have suffered by this war. The interests which have suffered are those of our Maltese subjects. We have heard how men were killed and others wounded and their houses destroyed, and we know that claims on their account for compensation will be made; now is the time to show that it is a real privilege to be a British subject, and that the interests of British subjects are maintained by the British Government all the world over. We have also heard how there were some 1,300 Maltese women and children put on to a small trading steamer and the terrible sufferings they endured during the voyage across to Malta, how some died on the way and others went mad, and they arrived in a most deplorable condition. We have had no explanation yet as to who was responsible, and why these poor unfortunate people were not taken off before the bombardment began. The Italian Government took off their own subjects, and the British Government might just as well have done the same. I believe appeals were sent by these people to the Government at Malta for help in their difficulty, but nothing seems to have been done. Can the right hon. Gentleman kindly tell us who is to blame? The Maltese papers have taken, it up, and they complain that the Government of Malta took no steps to help these suffering subjects.

I am sorry to say there has been a good deal of criticism from various quarters as to the action of the Italian soldiers in Tripoli itself. I am not talking of political questions. The private soldier knows no politics—but I will ask the House to put itself in the place of the Italian soldiers in Tripoli. The town itself had been surrendered, and the people had been allowed to stay in their houses and pursue their avocations without any molestation whatever. They found themselves opposed by an enemy of Turks and Arabs outside. That was an open enemy—a brave enemy. The Italians fought them manfully and no doubt treated them with mercy when wounded. Think of that company of Bersaglieri. They went into action 400 strong and suddenly and unexpectedly fire was opened on them from behind. Of the 400, 300 were killed and fourteen wounded. I ask any soldier here present if the proportion of killed and wounded would not have been exactly the reverse in any fair fight. These 300 men were absolutely murdered by treacherous friendlies suddenly opening fire on them from close quarters immediately in the rear. They were done to death in a cowardly manner. These treacherous friendlies had surrendered, and had there been any thought of treachery they would have been ousted out of the place long before. We can imagine the feelings of the seventy-six survivors. Would not anyone set his teeth and go for those murderous friendlies? Nothing arouses such keen resentment amongst soldiers fighting a real battle as treacherous murder of that sort. I think all soldiers will agree with me that before expressing any decided opinion or passing any irrevocable Resolution, we should take care that we have the full particulars of both sides before us.

I will now turn to the question of Persia. When we look at the situation in Persia at present, we find that during the last four years the trade routes of Southern Persia from all the Persian Gulf Ports where our merchandise goes to, Bushire and Banderabbas and other places, have been rendered absolutely unsafe by brigandage, and the Persian Government is entirely unable to maintain order in the country. British Consular officers, British travellers, and British caravans have been looted, and I do not think any compensation or restitution has been afforded in any case. The blame for this appears to me to rest on Persia alone. The hon. Member (Mr. Dillon) denounced what he called the ultimatum issued to Persia- by the Foreign Secretary last year, but the whole situation in Southern Persia, as far as I can gather, might have been saved had the Persian Government been wise and statesmanlike enough to accept the help which was then so generously offered by the loan of British officers to organise a gendarmerie to protect the roads and the country generally. There is no other country in the world but England which could have made such an offer. England has in India a trained and expert body of officers, thoroughly versed in the Persian language, who are accustomed to deal with tribesmen such as those who infest these roads in Southern Persia, and who are ready at a moment's notice to take up their work. We now hear that some Swedish officers are to be engaged. It will take them some years to get to know the Persian language and Persian ways and customs, and get actually into harness. Instead of accepting the offer, the Persian Government refused it, and the result is the present chaos. Had that offer been accepted the gendarmerie would have been in working order by now, and the position of the Persian Government would have been strengthened. A hundred years ago the loan of British officers from India was gladly accepted. Their names are well known in Persia to the present day. The refusal of the Persian Government at the present crisis to accept the loan of a few British officers shows the difference of statesmanship between the present Government and the Government of a hundred years ago. Think what England has done for Persia in the last 100 years. Had it not been for England Persia would never have had the southern coast line at all. England all this time has not only policed the seas at enormous expenditure of men and money, but has actually backed Persia up in every possible way, and enabled her Government to strengthen their hold over the tribes in that part of the country. Anyone who reads history will see how in the old pirate days one of His Majesty's ships was boarded and carried by pirates, every man on board being put to the sword. We maintained that force which put down the pirates for the benefit of Persia, and we allowed Persia to occupy land all along the Persian Gulf which formerly belonged to the Muscats. In every way British feeling for Persia has been tender. I remember the large district called Kohak. The Persian Government were actually allowed to occupy the district, and it is in possession of Persia at the present day, in contravention of all agreements. It seems almost hopeless at the present moment for the Persian Government to maintain order, and when the right hon. Gentleman opposite offers her the loan of a few British officers in her difficulty the offer is treated with contumely, and the British Government is accused of trying to annex the country. We have heard a description just now from the hon. Member as to the state of Persia.

10.0 P.M.

What are the real facts of the case? It is the same systematic robbery which is still practised by all the provincial governors, the same corruption is still rampant, and there have been no changes under the new form of Government, though the present Government appear to be intellectually superior to the Government of the old Shah. But they seem to me to fail entirely in initiative and constructive policy. In addition to that, it looks as if they were largely under the thumb of the revolutionary party headed by a number of Caucasian revolutionaries who engineered the Nationalist movement. I would remind the House that the Shah is young. Persia has got its Shah and constitution, and the aim and object of the British Government is to maintain them. I think all parties in England are united in that. There is a sort of movement in England headed by the "Manchester Guardian" to try to abolish if possible the Anglo-Russian Agreement. That agreement, to my mind, is the one hope of salvation for Persia. Much as I criticised its details at the time, and I still hold that the division between the English and Russian spheres should have been a line from Kasrishirin drawn eastwards through the middle of the great Salt Desert. That, in spite of all conventions will always be the great divide between Northern and Southern Persia. The great principle which we have to maintain is the Anglo-Russian Agreement. If that convention is broken I say there is nothing whatever left to guarantee either the integrity or the independence of Persia. We must do anything we can not to weaken that. We must do anything we can to uphold the principle of the convention in every possible way. I hope the Foreign Secretary will not find himself overburdened by the weight of the crusade for the destruction of that agreement, which appears to me to be engineered by the "Manchester Guardian."


I rise with a great sense of responsibility to move the Resolution standing in my name. [Mr. David Mason,—Tripoli (Seizure by Italy),—"That this House protests against the unwarrantable seizure of Tripoli by Italy and desires to express its horror and detestation at the recent massacre of Arabs by Italians in the oasis of Tripoli, and the House further urges His Majesty's Government, in accordance with The Hague Convention, to which both Powers were consenting parties, to protest against this outrage on humanity." I do this quite conscious of the responsibility which I incur, and I should like to say to the House that I do not wish in any way——


The hon. Gentleman did not tell me that he intended to move his Amendment. I understood from the hon. Gentleman that he did not propose to move his Amendment. I would not have called upon the hon. Member if I had understood that he was going to do so.


When did you understand that?


The last conversation I had with the hon. Member.


I am bound to say to you and to the House that I never stated I would not move the Amendment.


I said I understood from the hon. Member that he would not move. I would not have called upon him if he had told me that he intended to move.


I distinctly stated at the beginning—[An HON. MEMBER: "Speak without moving."]—I believe I have a perfect right to move the Amendment. I believe I am perfectly in order. If the House wishes to resume the general discussion it can do so after the Amendment has been disposed of. I am perfectly with in my rights, and I do submit that the House, which is the greatest deliberative Assembly in the world, should have the option of supporting the Amendment or rejecting it. I do not wish to interfere with the opinions of hon. Members who may wish to discuss other subjects. An expression of opinion by this House with regard to this Amendment will carry great weight, and will be very much appreciated in Italy and throughout Europe. [Interruption.] I do hope the House will accord me the courtesy of a hearing. I will be as brief as possible. I do not think I have interrupted any Member. [HON. MEMBERS: "Say what you have to say." "Make your speech."] I hope hon. Members opposite will show towards me that fair, sportsmanlike attitude which I have always shown to them. [HON. MEMBERS: "Address the Chair."] If I move this Amendment——


I think that the hon. Member really ought to remember the conversation which I had with him. I pointed out to him that it was very undesirable that he should move his Amendment, because it prevented a discussion upon other foreign topics which many hon. Members would wish to continue. I pointed out to him that it would be open to him to make any speech which he desired to make, and I impressed upon him as strongly as I could that he should not move his Amendment. I understood that he adopted my view, and with that in view I called upon the hon. Member. I hope that he will not move the Amendment of which he has given notice, which is not down as an Amendment to this Motion, but stands lower down in respect of some other Motion. If the hon. Member would be content to make his speech I am sure the House would listen to him.


May I ask if I may move this Amendment at the end of the discussion?


The hon. Member has the right to speak only once.


I am very anxious to get a protest even from a limited number if I cannot get it from the whole House, because of the immense value which the opinion of this Assembly would have with regard to the Turko-Italian War, and if he can show me how I can get a vote from this House I should be glad, because of the immense value which I attach to it.


Is it not a fact, if this Amendment is moved, the House will be unable to continue the original discussion, and cannot get back to it without the Closure? If an Amendment of this character is moved, the Chair may not see its way to give the Closure, and the entire Debate will be destroyed. Cannot the hon. Member make his speech on the particular point in which he is interested, and thereby follow the example of every other Member? We all have Motions on the Paper, and abstained from moving them for the convenience of the Debate.


I must say this is a great disappointment to me, but, of course, I will be very glad to fall in with this view. I do not propose now to confine myself to the Turko-Italian war, as I understand I am at liberty to touch on the whole foreign policy of His Majesty's Government. I will before I come to that question, which seems to me the question of the hour, refer to the Moroccan negotiations. I do not propose to address myself to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Foreign Affairs. The question before us is the foreign policy of His Majesty's Government, and we must consider that, not as one affecting the Foreign Secretary or his conduct of the Foreign Office, but as one affecting the whole Government. Every Member of the Government is responsible more or less for the foreign policy, and will receive any benefit that may come from its success, if there is any success, and he is also bound to share in the disadvantage of any failure. We suffer in this House very often from questions being referred to a particular Department instead of being taken as the policy of the Government as a whole. We have to consider every Member of the Cabinet as responsible for this policy. If he does not agree he ought to sever his connection with the Government, and if he remains a Member of the Government that means to all intents and purposes that he supports the policy of the Government as a whole. I had on a previous occasion an opportunity of addressing some questions to the Government with regard to the negotiations in Morocco, and the answers which were received were equivalent to saying—and some hon. Members who have already spoken have referred to the fact —that the matter was much too grave for question and answer; and we were, so to speak, prevented from offering any suggestion as to a solution of the Moroccan difficulty.

There were certain articles in the Algeciras Treaty which would have enabled a solution of the difficulty to be arrived at. Articles 8 and 9 provided machinery for the solution of any difficulties which might arise. I agree that the German Government acted in a provocative manner in sending a gunboat to Agadir, because they themselves did not take advantage of these articles, which provided that any complaints to be made could be made to the diplomatic body at Tangiers. As Germany did not take that action, we might have shown them we knew better by making this complaint also to the diplomatic body. Had we done so, it would have come before all the representatives of the Powers. There was machinery provided in that Act for the settlement of any questions that might arise, and the long-drawn negotiations of the last three months might have been prevented had that machinery been used. Instead of that we had this long recital from the Foreign Secretary of the conversations we have had during that period, of the alarms and scares among the markets of the world, the disturbance of trade and commerce, and the depreciation of securities, all arising from this fatuous blundering policy of present day diplomacy. Although we rejoice that things have somehow blundered through and that we are about to get a solution, I do not think we have any great reason to be proud of our methods and the way in which that solution has been arrived at.

I pass from that to the question of the Turko-Italian war. I think we are all agreed that the action of Italy is regarded throughout the whole United Kingdom as most unwarrantable and aggressive. In the Treaty of Paris there is full provision for maintaining the integrity of the Otto man Empire, and when that aggressive act took place, I do submit that for the British Government to have immediately issued a proclamation of neutrality and even to drag in the King's name was quite unnecessary. We surely had a right as a great Power to express our views as to the wanton and aggressive action of the Italians. We had Treaty rights, and we had the right as a great Power to protest against that action. Reference has been made by the hon. Member who has just sat down to the outrages in Tripoli, and he said there had been a certain amount of treachery. I am informed that treachery existed to a very limited extent, and that it was in part due to the absolute carelessness of the Italians themselves. There was no systematic taking of surrenders, and there was no system in any shape or form, as far as one can gather, of dealing with the Arabs and making them friendly disposed. Therefore, the accusation of treachery may be dismissed as really amounting to very little indeed. What were the facts on the other side? Hon. Members doubtless are well aware of what took place in the oasis. Everyone admits the truth of the statements of brave correspondents of great journals. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] The hon. Member says "No." He will have an opportunity later on of giving evidence to the contrary. As far as we go, the evidence I think is most conclusive. I have searched in every possible quarter before rising in this House to make these assertions. I have done everything possible to make myself acquainted with the truth of this matter. I have endeavoured to elicit the truth from His Majesty's Ministers. Questions have been put in the House from this side as well as the other side, and our difficulty has been to get reliable information from His Majesty's Ministers. That is the disappointment we have experienced. I will now read several extracts from the letters of Mr. McCullagh, war correspondent of "The Westminster Gazette" and "The New York World," with reference to the occurrences in Tripoli: I shall now give some more details of the cold-blooded murders committed by Italian soldiers during the last few days. 'Mahomet Masuri, returning from market with some money, searched by the soldiers, robbed, shot. An old marabout (holy man), who sat on the ground begging for alms, was shot dead. The villagers set the dead man on a donkey and led him round about the oasis to show the people how the foreigners treat their saints. 'Ali Frefer, a butcher of Sania, a hamlet in the oasis, was killing a sheep, when some Italian soldiers arrived upon the scene, took his axe from him, and killed him with it. 'In Tripoli a blind beggar was killed by soldiers. At Sakh Dehuma, in the oasis, a woman was lamenting over her dead husband, who had been shot, when some Italian soldiers approached and shot her also. '"On Wednesday, October 20th, at 4 p.m., a twelve-year-old boy was drinking from the well in Vierte Hané Shaiia Kubia, when a soldier shot him dead. ' At Bendair two women coming through the oasis seated on camels were both shot. At the same place a soldier endeavoured to pull the veil off a woman's face. On the woman resisting the soldier shot her. 'A friend of mine had an old Arab servant for twenty-eight years a cripple. The soldiers shot him.' Hundreds of similar instances could be given. Almost every correspondent, almost every foreign resident, has his own list of horrors. Every Consul has sent official reports on the subject to his Government. I hope my hon. Friend will observe those acts, and surely I have no doubt they will be conclusive evidence to him, as blind beggars and cripples could not be accused of treachery. Mr. McCullagh states, and this is important: Every Consul has sent official reports on the subject to his Government Hon. Members opposite, as well as hon. Members on this side, have from time to time endeavoured to elicit from the Foreign Secretary what official information he could give us. It was a perfectly reasonable request. Many hon. Members are unwilling, as I was unwilling, to believe that such horrors could be committed. I have a great regard and love for Italy. I visited Italy like many hon. Members, and I was horror stricken to think that European troops of a country so cultivated and possessing such a noble history, should have been guilty of such outrages as those to which I have alluded, but we were unable to obtain any information from the Foreign Secretary with regard to the Consul's evidence. He refused to communicate it to us, and as it did not refer to British subjects he did not consider it his duty to make known his knowledge to the House. I have yet to learn that humanity is limited only to British subjects. To the honour of hon. Gentlemen opposite and the party which they adorn, when the massacres were taking place in Bulgaria, Mr. Disraeli had the courage, when an emissary was sent out to give official information with regard to those atrocities, when Mr. Gladstone was speaking throughout the country, Mr. Disraeli had the courage to make known that official information to the world, although it meant the destruction of his Government. I say that undoubtedly it does pay a tribute to the straightforwardness of hon. Gentlemen opposite and the party to which they belong, that, although it meant the destruction of their party and of their leader, yet they had the courage when they knew the facts, to make them known and let mankind judge as to what was right. I say, as a Liberal, I hang my head in shame that the Foreign Secretary and the right hon. and hon. Gentleman who adorn the Front Bench, and who pose as Liberals throughout the country, should, as it were, try to deceive this House and try to suppress information, and I say that reflects the greatest discredit and the greatest dishonour upon the name of Liberal. In confirmation of that statement, because that war correspondent's remarks and statements might be called in question, I believe there is ample evidence both of Italian journalists and German journalists.


It has been denied by the Italian Government.


The only denial I have seen from them is that furnished by the Premier of the Italian Government. In that very denial to which the hon. Gentleman refers were the words that those found with arms in their hands were shot. So that, according to the denial itself, there was a refusal of the rights of war to these combatants and non-combatants. I return to the corroboration of the evidence by a German journalist. Herr von. Gottberg, the representative of the "Lokalan-gerger," wrote, In this particular case a young woman, holding her child by one hand and a water-pitcher in the other, appeared in a perfectly peaceful street. The soldiers aimed three shots at her, and she fell dead. Together with the same witnesses, Herr von Gottberg saw a girl of seventeen or eighteen being dragged naked through the sand by jeering soldiers. The girl was ill, suffering from swollen feet. When she threw herself down in despair, the soldiers seized her feet and dragged her on. The girl was finally thrown on the sand, twenty paces from an Italian field hospital. There she lay, crying for water. Herr von Gottberg called the attention of Italian military surgeons, who stood at the hospital laughing at the girl's torturers. They told him to mind his business. Late at night when the correspondents returned they found the girl in the same place, and with her two old women who had been similarly treated. Next morning all were dead. I submit that this should really appeal to us. I do not for a moment suggest that in British history there are not some things of which we are not altogether proud. But we of the present generation are responsible only for the acts we commit and the protests we make. If the Government are able to prove that these things are not true why do they not get up and do so? For the simple reason that they cannot. Would we not all rejoice if they did so? It is not a pleasant duty for me or any other Member to make these statements. I thank hon. Members for their courtesy in allowing me to tell my tale, but it is not at all a pleasant task. I hope the House will give me credit for sincerity and honesty. I do not do it from any sense of vain glory, or from any desire to make a great speech or to create an impression. Surely we, as men, have some chivalry left in us. We wish to make our voices heard, and we have a right to do so. Great Britain is still a great Power. I have had the honour to preside over two meetings attended by not very many but a representative number of Members of all parties, at which various aspects of this question were discussed. I am informed from authoritative quarters that the speeches then made were telegraphed out, and were the means of saving many lives. I ask hon. Members who took part in that, is that not a reward for what little effort they have made? I say also it is a reward for us in this House to make our protest known. We have had a grant discussion to-day, and if we are able to lift up our voices to express sentiments of condemnation of wrong doing, if we know that the voices of hon. Members of this House have the effect of saving many human lives, and of bringing to an end injustice and cruelty to women and children, and helpless people who are not combatants, I appeal to hon. Members that we should all be very proud indeed. I want to say just one word to show how we have the opportunity here of taking action. It was well said, I think, by Mr. Gladstone: "That agitation was of very little use unless it led to action." We have a very clear case confirmed, as I have shown the House, from many authoritative sources. We have therefore, a mandate, if we require one, on the highest-ground, that of humanity. We have a mandate under The Hague Convention, to which both the Powers and ourselves were consenting parties.

Let me read to the House the particular Articles to which I refer. Article 2 of the regulations respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land says that: the population of a territory which has not been occupied on the approach of the enemy and who spontaneously take of arms … shall be regarded as belligerents. Article 3 says that:— in case of capture by the armed forces … have a right to be treated as prisoners of war. Article 4 deals with prisoners of war, and says:— they must be humanely treated, and that all their personal belongings … shall remain their property. I think the House will agree with me that there is ample power, therefore, for Great Britain to act. All that is necessary is for hon. Members here to express the views which I have, I am afraid, very inadequately expressed. Let hon. Members support those views if they think they are honest and sincere views. This House has the power. Right hon. Gentlemen are helpless before the House—if we only knew it. We have the power if we unite, and if hon. Members co-operate with us in trying to urge this Government to act. If you co-operate with us in urging the Government to act, and they refuse to do so, then we have a common cause. We can go to the country and turn the present Government out. [Laughter.] Hon. Members laugh. It is perfectly true. We invite you to co-operate with us in this matter. It is no laughing question. If hon. Members believe we are acting honestly and sincerely let them act with us. It will rebound to their credit in their constituencies. Is there a single voter in any constituency which will call their action into question? There cannot possibly be anyone who could call it into question. Why, then, fear to take action? Why not unite with us in urging the Government to take some steps to protect these people under The Hague Convention and in the interests of humanity? I have some doubt as to the motives which have animated or inspired His Majesty's Government in their action in this matter. Why have His Majesty's Government not disclosed their policy in regard to Turkey, Italy, and this country? I admit that it is a most extraordinary thing, and it is very difficult to elicit why the Liberal Government could not take action, which, after all, would be in accordance with Liberal traditions. The only reason I can adduce for the action of His Majesty's Government, is that indicated in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary, which hon. Members opposite have referred to. I am very glad to pay a high compliment to the very warm and generous expression of good feeling towards Germany which fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. We on this side of the House feel, that although we may differ and continue to differ in many respects from the right hon. Gentleman, admiration for the manly, straightforward way in which he expressed himself in regard to Germany. Without in any way showing any weakness, or in any way discounting the high difficulty of this country, without in any way indicating that we are not prepared, as I hope we are and always will be prepared, to stand up for our own rights, and interests, and for the honour of Great Britain, yet he was prepared, in contrast to the Foreign Secretary, to express himself in warm and generous terms towards Germany. I cannot understand the attitude and the view of the present Government, and their policy towards others. I am convinced the real reason is an obsession on the part of the Foreign Secretary, more particularly in regard to Germany, and that it might possibly detach Italy from the Triple Alliance. That is the only deduction that I can draw as throwing light upon his attitude. The House will be interested to hear what the views of His Majesty's Government are. Personally, I prefer to hear the views of the head of the Government. I had occasion once to approach the head of the Government; he deprecated reference to these occurrences, which, I think, should really bring a blush of shame to the cheek of any chivalrous man. The House would welcome a statement as to the policy of the Government on this question. I can only make one final appeal to the House. I would remind hon. Members opposite of the policy of Great Britain under the great Canning, a great Conservative, and the greatest Foreign Minister this country ever had. The greatness of Canning's policy was to be friendly with all nations and to avoid entangling alliances with all. The Foreign Secretary has spoken rather in ridicule of that great tradition. Canning caused this country to be respected in the councils of Europe; he was prepared to ally himself with any Power without entering into tangling alliances. Canning, Palmerston, and Gladstone took up the question of suffering mankind. Here is an opportunity for Great Britain to revert to those heights of noble traditions, and I appeal to this House to look back on its past. Remember the great men who have adorned our parties, who have shed lustre upon the great Conservative party and the great Liberal party, and, having regard to those great traditions, let us try to excel, if we can, the great glories of the past.


I am sure no one in the House doubts the sincerity of the hon. Member for Coventry or the strength of feeling Which moved him to represent his views on the recent events in Tripoli, but I take it that it is the general sense of the House that we should revert to the original question of Morocco. I wish to offer a few observations which arise out of the speech made by the Foreign Secretary. It is hardly necessary for me to reiterate the feeling of relief which we all felt after the pacific speech of the right hon. Baronet, which I hope will lead to better relations between this country and Germany. The Foreign Secretary referred to the case of Morocco and went into a great deal of detail, and I regret that he stopped short where he did without giving us any information as to the actual state of affairs in Morocco. Under the Anglo-French Agreement of 1894 equality of commerce and economic relations are guaranteed by France and England to each other. I take that agreement to mean that any merchandise going from France into Morocco should be treated precisely the same as any merchandise going from Great Britain into Morocco. But the situation in Morocco has undergone a considerable change, and the Prime Minister has acknowledged it. Under the Algeciras Act the independence of the Sultan of Morocco is guaranteed, but events have shown that the Sultan is no longer fit to exercise that independence, and France found it necessary to effect a military occupation of the country. The Imperial Chancellor of Germany stated that by the military occupation of Morocco by France the Algeciras Conference Treaty has been torn up, and Germany assumes the position that that Treaty no longer exists. Is it not a fact that Germany no longer considers herself bound by that Treaty, and has made new arrangements with France?

This country now knows the commercial arrangements Germany has effected with France. Now that the question has been raised as to the need of giving more information on foreign affairs I should like to ask whether the fact that France has now assumed control through her military occupation of Morocco affects the commercial and economic relations between the United Kingdom and that country? Those who, like myself, have travelled extensively in Morocco can realise the vast potentialities and the great agricultural and mineral future of that country under civilised rule. There is a great future awaiting that country, and those concerned in British trade there would like to know whether the situation has been changed by the fact that France has occupied Morocco. I think it is desirable that we should have some information, to avoid any misunderstanding with France. Hon. Members will recollect that it was a certain interpretation of a Treaty in connection with Madagascar that led to the protest made by the late Lord Salisbury's Government. It is highly desirable, where the relations are of such intimate character between this country and France, that in future such misunderstanding should be removed, and the best way of removing it is, if the Foreign Secretary can, to give to the House any information whether the situation has been changed, and whether in future France, exercising control, may be able to say, "Buy goods from France; they come free into Morocco. Goods from other countries are subject to differential rates."


In reply to the hon. Member who has just sat down, the economic equality which was secured by the late Government under the Treaty of 1904 remains under the present conditions, and, more than that, the economic equality which is secured under the arrangements between France and Germany, if that arrangement is adhered to by the other Powers who are parties to the Algeciras Act, will not merely exist between France and Germany, but between all other nations. Having spoken so much on Morocco already this evening, and having indicated the subject is a delicate one, I think, with that exception, I am entitled to ask the House to dispense with anything further on the subject of the Moroccan negotiations. I do not in the least deprecate the remarks of other Members since on the subject of Morocco generally, but the very full statement, carefully considered, which I did make at the beginning of the evening, I think ought to dispense me from the necessity of supplementing it by dealing with further points with which I could not deal with such careful consideration as I did in the earlier statement. The hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Dillon) said I had painted the situation in rosy colours. I was dealing solely with the question of Morocco. The Moroccan agreement between France and Germany is yet awaiting final approval from the French Chamber, and, if I gave the impression there was a rosy situation, it was quite wrong to infer I meant, because an arrangement had been come to between France and Germany about Morocco, therefore there was no other trouble in the world. I did not in the least mean to indicate the whole horizon of the world was free from trouble. I was speaking solely with reference to that particular question. Of course there are troubles, and the situation is exceedingly difficult in Persia at the present moment, to say nothing of the war which is proceeding between Italy and Turkey. With the Persian situation I must deal, though I do not propose at this hour to deal with it exhaustively. One hon. Member said that Persia had not prospered since the Anglo-Russian agreement. Persia was not prospering when the Anglo-Russian agreement was made. The Persian Government then was weak and unsatisfactory. It is not as if the Anglo-Russian agreement had found a satisfactory state of things in Persia. It came into existence precisely because the state of things in Persia was very unsatisfactory and unstable. As to Russian influence in the north of Persia, one hon. Member—I think the hon. Member for Hull (Mr. Mark Sykes), who made a most interesting maiden speech, as regards which I should like to associate myself entirely with all the Prime Minister said about it—said that Teheran, the centre of influence in Persia, was placed in the Russian sphere. It is the capital of Persia, and it is not in the centre of Persia. It is in the north of Persia, and, whatever the division of the spheres of interest may be, even if those who think the division of the spheres of interest between us and Russia, made under the Anglo-Russian Agreement, is a one-sided one, had had the drawing up of the spheres of interest—even if they had been drawn as I think the hon. Member for Melton (Colonel Yate) wished them to be drawn—Teheran would still, under any conceivable arrangement, have been in the Russian sphere of influence. As a matter of fact, when the Anglo-Russian Agreement came to be made Russian influence was already predominant in Teheran and in the North of Persia. What was the object of the Anglo-Russian Agreement? The object was to prevent the two nations mining and countermining against each other in the somewhat squalid diplomatic struggle which has gone on for years—one trying to gain an advantage at the expense of the other—troubling the Indian frontier on the one side, and the Russian Government always afraid we were going to obtain some advantage towards their frontier. The object of the Agreement was to put a stop to that. It has put a stop to it. On both sides the two countries have loyally observed in the spirit the Agreement in the sense of not attempting to acquire advan-ages for themselves in those particular districts when an advantage would cause apprehension and anxiety to the other. It put an end to that constant friction and trouble which existed before. When people criticise the working of the Agreement, when they fix on this point or that and say that it is not satisfactory, I will ask them to remember that if they upset the Anglo-Russian Agreement the small points under it, which seem unsatisfactory in it to-day, and seem important, will become quite insignificant compared with the much larger points which will arise if the two countries work against each other. Apart from that, one of the objects of the arrangements was that we should not attempt to acquire interests for ourselves which might have a political character in the northern part of Persia. The Persian Government engaged a very able American gentleman—Mr. Shuster—to take charge of their finance. I am quite certain Mr. Shuster set about his task in Persia with ability and good intentions and with single-mindedness. He had no political axe of his own to grind, and he was quite innocent of any political intrigue. But he took no account at all of the peculiar political considerations which underlie the Anglo-Russian Agreement and which must exist in Persia. Not long after he had been at his work he appointed a gentleman who had ceased to be our military attaché at Teheran—Major Stokes—to control the whole Treasury gendarmerie. That meant that Major Stokes would reside at Teheran, in North Persia, and his control over the gendarmerie would be a control over the gendarmerie on the Russian frontier, as well as elsewhere. I was not aware at the time, but I have heard since, and I believe it is true—it is perfectly well-known that Major Stokes has expressed and has never made any secret of expressing a strong anti-Russian feeling. Suppose the case had been the other way, and that a Russian officer, who had been associated with an anti-British policy, had been appointed to a district in the south-east of Persia, on the Indian frontier. Does anybody suppose a protest would not have been made? That was followed a little time afterwards by the appointment of three British subjects by Mr. Shuster, as Treasury official, at three separate towns in Persia—the first at Shiraz, another at Ispahan, and a third—Mr. Lecoffre—at Tabriz. Simultaneously these appointments were made, of course, with regard to the appointment at Shiraz, which is in the south of Persia, the Russian Government could not take any objection, and they did not take any objection. Ispahan is in the Russian sphere of influence, just at the southern edge of the Russian sphere of interest. Russia said they took no objection to the appointment of a British subject as a Persian official there, because it is far south, and is on the edge of their sphere. They took no objection to that, but they did object to the appointment of a, third British official, Mr. Lecoffre, at Tabriz, which is near their own frontier. It is impossble for me to say that the attitude of the Russian Government was unreasonable. As a matter of fact, the moment I heard of these three appointments, I instructed our Minister at Teheran to point out to Mr. Shuster that it was certain that the appointment of Mr. Le-coffre would give rise to objections, and to point out to him that we had come to an understanding with Russia, the basis of which was that we should not promote British political interests in the north of Persia, that he could not possibly expect us to give support to anyone else in doing that which we ourselves had undertaken not to do, and that he ought to see that it was bound to lead to a protest. I said that before I heard of the Russian objection at all. It was so obvious. Mr. Shuster refused to take any account of this, and he persisted in the appointment of Mr. Lecoffre as well as the others. Of course; he says that these are the best people he has at hand for these particular posts. They are British subjects, and it does not lie with me to say they are not the best, but if you are going to proceed on that principle, or if anybody is going to proceed on that principle in Persia, it may lead simply to the Anglicising of the Persian Official Service indiscriminately throughout Persia, and the Anglo-Russian understanding, of course, goes. It is a breach of the Anglo-Russian understanding.

Then arose a dispute between the Russian Consul-General and Mr. Shuster with regard to certain property in which we had no interest. Into the merits of that dispute I do not enter. We were not concerned in it at all. The Russian Government took a strong view of it. They sent an ultimatum to the Persian Government, and they said that they would send troops as far as Kasvin if, within a short time two demands which they had made were not complied with. The demands were not complied with within the time. More days elapsed than had been given originally before the Russian troops actually entered Persia. We understood that, if the two demands were complied with the Russian troops woud not proceed to Persia or would be withdrawn. But the demands were not complied with for some days. The Russian troops actually entered Persia, and before the demands were complied with, Mr. Shuster had circulated broadcast a pamphlet attacking the Russian Government. Mr. Shuster, as an American citizen, has no doubt a perfect right to circulate what he pleases on political affairs, but he has no right to circulate attacks upon a neighbour of Persia in his capacity as an official of the Persian Government. These attacks were circulated broadcast about the time the Russian troops entered Persia, and I can only ask the House what the situation would be if two Governments, who were neighbours, even if they were Governments of equal power and standing as regards strength—if the official of one of them circulated pamphlets attacking the other and attacking the officials of the other and still remained in the service of the Government with which he was. Of course, the situation was an impossible one, and there it is at the present moment. With regard to-what the Russian Government told us regarding the dispatch of troops into Persia, I shall be glad to make a definite statement in reply to a question at an early date. I will deal to-night with the sending of our own troops into Persia.


Has not the Persian Government as a matter of fact apologised on the advice of the British Government?


I am afraid I have been obscure. There were two demands made—one was an apology—by the Russian Government. A time limit was given before any Russian troops entered Persian territory without the demands being complied with. We were informed that the Russian troops would be withdrawn if the two demands were complied with, but time passed without their being complied with. Russian troops actually entered Persia, and before the demands were complied with Mr. Shuster, as an official of the Persian Government, circulated these pamphlets making direct attacks upon the Russian Government. Of course, that altered the situation. That is what I tried to explain to the House. How can you with the best intentions and the best desires in the world promote a settlement between the Persian Government and the Russian Government when there is an official in the service of the Persian Government publicly making attacks upon the Russian Government?


Was not the pamphlet containing the alleged attacks a recital of acts done by Russian officials against Mr. Shuster and his supporters?


I can only answer on one of those points. I have not studied the statements of Mr. Shuster as a whole, but I took notice of one of them. I asked about it. It was a statement that the Russian Ambassador at Vienna had an interview with the ex-Shah and made to him the statement which the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) mentions. I am assured by the Russian Government that the Russian Ambassador at Vienna never saw the ex-Shah, and did not make any such declaration. These are matters between the Persian and the Russian Governments, and what I have endeavoured to point out to the House is that the situation is impossible if you have the official of one Government making public attacks upon another Government, especially when it is an essential condition, and must be an essential condition, of Persian independence, that it takes into account the interests of Russia on the one side in the part in which Russia is particularly interested, and those of Great Britain on the other in the parts in which we are particularly interested. We have sent some troops, it is true, into the South of Persia. We said to the Persians originally that we proposed, as their caravan routes were stopped, that they should employ British officers to put them into order. They did not accept that suggestion. They prefered to employ Swedish officers. We were quite content that Swedish officers should be employed, so long as the thing was done. Owing to the chaos in Persia the trade routes became worse, and early in October I had an alarming telegram from our Consular officer at Shiraz, stating that the property and even the lives of British subjects were not exempt from danger in the town. It was under those circumstances that we took the responsibility of deciding upon the dispatch of these 400 troops, and with information like that before us I do not think we could have done less. But we have limited the action of the troops. They are going to increase the Consular guards at three places, and they will remain there to protect life and property if the danger recurs. Less than that we could not have done with the information we had. With regard to Persian independence it is absolutely essential that it should be independence which does take into account the respective interests of Russia and Great Britain in the parts adjoining their countries. We ourselves could not possibly allow the part of Persia which adjoins the Indian Frontier to be in a condition which threatened the security of that country. The independence of one country, and especially a country like Persia, lying between her two great neighbours, must take account of the interests of these neighbours. No country I could have independence which takes absolutely no account of her neighbours. Since the Anglo-Russian Agreement was made the Persians expelled the ex-Shah. The ex-Shah was supposed to be the friend of and acting in the interest of the Russian Government. It was always supposed that he was the person they wished to be Shah, that he was the person whom they considered amenable to their interests. When the Persians wished to turn him out there were Russian officers at Teheran, and if Russian officers had interfered, if Russian influence had been used on his behalf, he would never have been turned out of Persia. Russia under the Anglo-Russian Agreement was in communication with him all the time, and Russia lifted no finger to help, and he was expelled from the country. A constitutional Government took the place of the former one under a regent. The Persians, when that was done, and having got their constitutional Government, and having got rid of the Shah whom the Russians could, by the least effort of support, have kept in his place, ought at once to have assured Russia that they were perfectly aware that had Russia interfered they could not have had their own wish, and could not have got rid of the Shah, and that the Shah being gone, the constitutional Government in Persia would take care that the Russian interests, which were already agreed to in the north of Persia, were respected, and did not suffer from the change of Government. But that was not the attitude of the National Government. Their attitude was that, having got rid of the Shah, they were going to thrust out Russian influence in Persia. That was a perfectly hopeless policy to adopt. You cannot help people who adopt a policy of that kind. It was quite obvious that, having got rid of the Shah, the Persian National Government ought at once to have assumed a friendly spirit towards the Russian Government, and had they done so, I believe things would have worked well.

Now the situation in Persia is, I admit, anything but satisfactory. It has been described by some as chaos and revolution; and if the situation is not satisfactory, as I admit it is not, what would it have been without any Anglo-Russian Agreement? The independence of Persia would have been infinitely more threatened without the Anglo-Russian Agreement than it is to-day, and the relations between England and Russia would have been imperilled as they are not imperilled to-day. The situation is difficult, I admit, but I trust a solution will be found. But it is essential that the Government at Teheran should realise that it is impossible for them to employ officials who are utterly hostile to the Russian Government, and they must see that under constitutional Government in Persia there will be no attempt to thrust out Russian interests or to put the hands of the clock back so far as Russian interests in the north of Persia are concerned.

I pass from that to one or two points in connection with Turkey. The hon. Member for Hull (Mr. Sykes) asked me about the revolution in April, 1909. We stood aside from that. It was reported that we took sides. We did not take sides. More about Turkey I cannot well say without dealing with Turkish internal affairs, and at a moment when Turkey and Italy are engaged in war it is exceedingly difficult for one anxious to observe an attitude of non-intervention and neutrality to discuss Turkish internal affairs, I will pass from that. I have but one subject more with which I will attempt to deal. That is the question of the Italian-Turkish war. The hon. and gallant Gentlemen opposite asked me about the Maltese residents in Tripoli, and whether we could have done more to remove the Maltese. The thing came upon us very suddenly. I have inquired as to what appeals exactly we did receive and when we received them, but my impression is that there was not time to embark these people before the bombardment. We did not hear of any appeals to remove British subjects before the bombardment took place. The ultimatum only gave twenty-four hours' notice. We were not warned of it beforehand. The war broke out immediately, but the claim for injury done to the Maltese, as I have already stated, will be investigated. They are being collected now, and of course we shall investigate them and put them forward with other writs.

With regard to the speech of the hon. Member for Coventry (Mr. D. Mason), I can only say that a speech of that kind puts me in an absolutely impossible position. He assumes that I have got official information, or any information, which confirms all the things he has been stating to the House. I have not got it. I have not pot anything confirming it in the Consul's Report or from the military attaché. The Consul has reported what other people told him. His first Report I know was that he had heard these things said. Late in, the evening he went out to see what he could verify. He saw that there had been fighting, and he saw a good many dead bodies. That was all he saw at first hand, and from him I have no first-hand information confirming these things, nor have I from the military attaché. Of course, I know all the statements which poured in on all sides. I have no means of investigating the truth of them. I am sure that they cannot all be true. They include, of course, if you read both sides, the terrible statements of the treatment of Italian wounded, and the treatment of Italian soldiers by the Arabs, as well as the statements which the hon. Member for Coventry has given on the other side. If I had the information which disproved them, of course I would give the information. I have no information either to prove or disprove them—either the atrocities of the Arabs, or the massacres reported on the other side. In war I do not see how you are to have such information. You send your military attaché, and you have your officials, but once nations are at war they control the theatre of operations of war and you cannot be expected to be called upon to publish either the reports of your military attaché or other officials. You cannot be called upon to publish those reports or else it would result that the military attaché and the officials would not be allowed to go near the scene of operations.

You cannot have one Government, a neutral Government, in the position of collecting information and publishing it with regard to operations in war of other Governments who are at war. It is impossible. As a matter of fact, I have no information which confirms those reports, or about what happened at all, from any officials there. I have no information dealing with those things at all. The Government have adopted, and I think rightly adopted, the policy of neutrality and non-intervention in this war. I do not say that under no circumstances would we depart from that; but it would have to be under circumstances which gravely concerned British interests, and after very full consideration, and if there had been some great and new development in the situation. We adhere to the policy of non-intervention, and if you adopt the policy of non-intervention, if you are to depart from it at all, you must depart from it in some effective manner. If you adopt the policy of verbal non-intervention, that is about as futile and irritating a policy as could be conceived. That is why I say speeches like that of the hon. Member for Coventry put me in an impossible position. As to foreign policy generally, what does he recommend? He recommends that we should be friendly with all and feared in the councils of Europe.


I am sure the right hon. Gentleman does not wish to misrepresent me intentionally. I said the policy which I ventured to recommend was the policy of being friendly with all and allied to none.


And I also took down "and feared in the councils of Europe." I cannot imagine a more impossible statement of foreign policy comprised in one sentence than that—no allies, friendly with all, and feared by all. I say that is absolutely impossible. I set against that the outline of foreign policy which I gave earlier in the evening. I understand that there are others who wish to speak in the Debate. I would suggest that we should not go on very late to-night, but if it is desired later on that some other day should be given the Government will be prepared to give more time for discussion. With that understanding, and if it is desired that more time should be given later on, I suggest that we should not prolong our proceedings to a late hour.


I am sure the House will have heard with satisfaction the last few words of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, namely, that he was willing to entertain the idea at an early date of further discussing the question of foreign policy. I think, in view of the new matter which the right hon. Gentleman himself has raised at this late period of the evening, that is the only possible attitude which the Government could adopt. I hope he will give us, before this Debate closes to-night, an assurance that at a very early date there will be a resumption of the Debate. It is not only that there are many hon. Members on this side of the House who wish to present new views which have not hitherto been presented, which cannot obviously from the time of the evening be presented to-night, but there is the further consideration that it may be to the advantage of the Government itself to have the opportunity of replying to certain foreign views that may be taken of the Debate which has taken place here to-day. So far as I am concerned, at this period of the evening, I will intervene only for a moment. I rejoice with my colleagues who have spoken on this side of the House this afternoon that at last we have had an opportunity of hearing a statement from the Foreign Secretary. For my part I think it has been too long delayed; I think it has been dangerously delayed. I understand, of course, it might have been impossible to have given a full statement of the policy until the statement was made in Germany. For my part I think we ought, within forty-eight hours, to have had our position cleared with the country and foreign nations. The Foreign Secretary and every Member of the Cabinet know that there is anxiety, and, in my opinion, rightly, and a great deal of anxiety, as to foreign policy during the last few months. I am not one of those to say that you can have public diplomacy. I believe in delicate negotiations—it is necessary sometimes that publicity should be delayed, but we have also to consider the nature of the publicity that ought to be indulged in and the extent of the secrecy that ought to be adopted.

I hope the statement of the right hon. Gentleman will clear the air so far as the foreign political situation is concerned. I am one of those who believe to a large extent in the foreign policy of the right hon. Gentleman. He, at all events, has something to lay to his claim, and which I think ought to commend him to his Radical supporters: that during his period of office he has kept us out of war, and, I believe, maintained the dignity and the power of this country. That is something which I think he can take to his credit, something which I think Radicals ought to hesitate before they entirely condemn. I desire to say that my impression of this Debate to-day is that it has been an exhibition of the feeble diplomacy which exists between this country and Germany, and the utter failure, in my opinion, of the diplomatic channels that have been brought into play, why call it diplomacy, diplomacy is the wrong word. What is the position with regard to Germany? They obviously had no idea of what our attitude was with regard to Morocco. As I understand the Foreign Secretary, no inquiry was ever made by the German Ambassador as to what attitude we would take of the contemplated German action in Morocco. They had no idea we were going to claim that British interests were involved. That shows to what an enormous extent relations must have been strained between the two countries. The German Foreign Office, having no knowledge of what the attitude of the British Government would be, took this action. Hon. Members shake their heads. But let the Foreign Secretary get up and say whether any inquiry was made by the German Foreign Office, through the German Ambassador, previously to the action they took in sending a gunboat to Morocco. It seems to me they had no knowledge or did not take steps to gain knowledge as to what our attitude would be with regard to that step.

We come to the day on which the German Ambassador was informed that our interests were involved in the action they had taken, and I ask the attention of the Foreign Secretary to this because, no matter what other points have been raised in this Debate, the great point of interest is this, and each Member of the House has a right to get a reply, and I say that the whole of this Debate will have been useless if it starts a new era of discussion on points which have not been cleared up. The whole point of interest is this: When the right hon. Gentleman asked the German Ambassador to visit him at the Foreign Office, when he informed him that British interests were involved, and when he stated the view of the Cabinet did he intimate to the German Ambassador that the Cabinet would expect an early reply. When no reply came for the best part of three weeks, did the right hon. Gentleman make an inquiry of the German Ambassador as to whether any reply was for coming? Did the right hon. Gentleman, through our Ambassador in Berlin, make any inquiries as to whether any reply was going to be sent? If it was not made clear that a reply was expected, I do not think the Government were quite right in rushing to the public platform to declare their policy. What was the position? It is claimed that the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer prevented war. I hope it did, but it was a terrible risk. It was not as if the speech at the Mansion House was an incident in the chain-work of diplomacy and negotiations. It was a mere incident. The appointment was made weeks before. Had it not been that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was to speak at the Mansion House, how does the right hon. Gentleman anticipate that he would have made his views known to the German Government and the German people? There must have been some other way out of it. There is no doubt that the relations between this country and Germany have been very materially endangered by the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It may have done good, that is a very difficult question to judge, but this effect I know it had: that practically all the friends of England in Germany—the friends of peace, the friends of better relations between the two countries—were simply stupified. They said it was useless for them any longer to work to bring about better relations when the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the man whom they regarded as the best friend of Anglo-German friendship, had made such a speech.—[A laugh.]—The hon. Member is amused. I do not regard it as an amusing matter. It is a very serious situation. We cannot get better relations with Germany—which, I take it, is the wish of everybody in the House—so long as we anger and defy the opinion of a great section of the German people. Therefore, for my part, I could have hoped that the Government had found a way out without making their policy known in the face of the whole nation. We have been told to-night that no war could take place unless public opinion was behind it. But public opinion would have had no opportunity of asserting itself if the step taken had not been successful. The House of Commons has no power—in the obvious course of things it cannot have much power—before the declaration of war. War is declared by the Government, and the House of Commons has to vote money to pay for it. While I know that the Government are anxious for peace with Germany, I could have wished that they had been a shade more cordial to-night. The right hon. Gentleman had a great opportunity. The German Chancellor went a very long way in the difficult situation in which he was placed to show that he was anxious for a better understanding with this country. We are all anxious for a better understanding, otherwise we must look forward year after year to more "Dreadnoughts," more scares, more money taken from social reform, to be spent in the dockyards. The right hon. Gentleman said that he saw a little brighter hope for the future. What are the Government going to do to bring about a better understanding? I could have wished the right hon. Gentleman had closed his speech by more thoroughly reciprocating the views of the German Chancellor, and that he would have pronounced the willingness of the Government to enter into any convention, any conference, in order to clear up the many points of misunderstanding which exist at the present time. I believe the people of this country, the supporters of the Government, that all sections of the people refuse to believe that there is a possibility of immediate war with Germany. The more the Government do to bring about better relations the more hearty will be the support they will receive from their supporters and the country.


I beg to move "That the Debate be now adjourned."


On a point of Order. Under the Resolution we passed on 24th October is a private Member at liberty to move the adjournment of the Debate on Government business?


The hon. Member's reference, applies only to the Closure Resolution upon the Insurance Bill.


On a point——


I would remind the hon. Member that he will probably lose his right to speak if he speaks now.


If the Debate be adjourned now, to what date will it be adjourned?


I cannot say.

Question, "That this Debate be now adjourned," put, and agreed to.

Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER, pursuant to the Order of the House of 24th October, proposed the Question, "That this House do now adjourn."

Question put, and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at Twenty-seven minutes before Twelve o'clock.