§ Motion made, and Question proposed,
§ 5. "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £50,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1916, for His Majesty's Foreign and other Secret Services."
§ Mr. KING
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.
1140 Whenever the Secret Service Vote comes before the House I always take the opportunity of drawing attention to one or two peculiar circumstances connected with it. On former occasions, and in times of peace, I have always objected to the Vote because it is secret and because it attains, or attempts to attain, by methods kept from the public things which might just as well be attained in a public way. But at the present time the other view may be entertained, that as practically all our expenditure of a war nature is secret, all our Army expenditure, all our Navy expenditure, all our advances to our Allies and to our Colonies are kept entirely secret from us, what is the good of having a Secret Service Vote at all? All Votes for the War are entirely secret. As far as I can understand, they are not even to be put before the Public Accounts Committee. I, at any rate, have seen the Report of the Public Accounts Committee, as printed, and I do not understand that the expenditure of the War is set out there at all as we were given to understand it would be, or at any rate in such an intelligible form that we can understand what the expenditure on the War has been. Why have a Secret Service Vote at all when all the operations, to the extent of £5,000,000 a day, are carried on secretly? It is a mere absurdity. It is a contradiction in terms in these times to put forward a Secret Service Vote at all. I am sorry that no one connected with the Foreign Office is present. I think on previous occasions, as the Secret Service Vote is in some sort of way connected with the Foreign Office, we have had a representative of the Foreign Office to support and explain it. Whether that be so or not, I intend to call attention to two definite facts in connection with this Vote which I think are of some importance. If the Secret Service Vote is to be in any sense effective it ought to be kept secret, and at the present time there is a gentleman going up and down the country lecturing, and making a very large amount of money by his lectures, which he puts forward on the ground that he was employed for a good number of years by the Foreign Office on secret service. I refer, of course, to Mr. William Le Queux. If you go to any watering-place you will see advertisements of Mr. William Le Queux, stating that he will give to the public, in return for the purchase of a half-crown ticket, the benefit of his great experiences and the secrets of the Courts of Europe and of diplomacy 1141 which he has attained while he was in the Secret Service. If it is true that he was in the Secret Service, he ought not to be allowed to go about disclosing the secrets. If he was not in the Secret Service, he is a fraud, a deception, and a humbug, and he is also a discredit to the country and ought to be prosecuted under the Defence of the Realm Act for throwing discredit on the country and on the Foreign Office. I should like some explanation of what to my mind is a perfect scandal—the way in which Mr. W. Le Queux has been going about for months saying he was a friend of the late Marquess of Salisbury, that he had many intimate communications with him, that he was sent on a secret service mission with Secret Service money. And then he gets ex-Cabinet Ministers to take the chair for him at his lectures.
§ Mr. KING
The gentleman known as Viscount Midleton, who in this House was known as Mr. St. John Brodrick, who was formerly Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, takes the chair for him. I have no doubt, therefore, that Mr. St. John Brodrick, with all his authority at the Foreign Office, backs him up. If it was not that this gentleman professes under such auspices to give away the secrets of the Foreign Office the matter would be of less consequence. But with this backing up it becomes a perfect scandal.
There is one other, to my mind, important fact in connection with this Vote that ought to be met from the Treasury Bench—I refer to the case of Mr. Master-man. It has become an open secret, which anyone can see clearly by giving attention to the answers which have been given to frequent questions in this House as to the work, emoluments and method of pay of Mr. Masterman in his present position, that he is serving in the Secret Service and is paid out of the Secret Service Vote. I have always been a very great admirer of Mr. Masterman, but I do not agree with all his views, and I do not agree with a man being in the Secret Service and publishing elaborate statements of the policy of this country under his own signature. If he is in the Secret Service let him do secret work and not public work. I have it, everyone has it, on the very best authority, that he is in the Secret Service at present. Let him, therefore, do his work quietly and in secret. I am sorry I have not the 1142 attention of any Cabinet Minister, because I am perhaps misguided enough to think that these matters I am bringing before the Committee are of such interest and importance that they ought to receive the attention of a Cabinet Minister, and I hope they will get some answer now.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I am now asking for money for the Secret Service. If my hon. Friend wishes to persuade us not to vote that money, he is perfectly entitled to do so. Secret Service money is money deliberately and repeatedly voted by Parliament about which hon. Members abrogate their right to ask any questions. If you do not like the Secret Service, do not vote it; but do not ask questions as to how it is spent, because then it is not Secret Service.
§ Mr. KING
I am afraid I shall have to make my speech all over again. I have just been pointing out two definite cases of men who say they are in the Secret Service and are doing public work, and one of them is giving away, with the support of men who have been in the Foreign Office, what he declares to be the secrets of the Foreign Office. It is a perfect scandal, and it only bears out what I say, that if you vote money in secret you will have it misused and misapplied and you will put it into the hands of people who are quite unworthy of your confidence. I suppose as we are not to have any reply to my speech it is a case of either take it or leave it. I am afraid I shall be the only Member who will have the courage to speak out against this Vote, but I must, as a protest against the way in which my entirely well meant and serious allegations have been met, move a reduction of the Vote.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. BRYCE
I wish rather to dispute the rather drastic ruling of the Chancellor of the Duchy that no one is entitled to ask any questions on this Vote. It seems to me a monstrous doctrine that any Vote whatever should be proposed to Parliament and that no member of the Committee should be allowed to say anything whatever about it. That is what Is 1143 understand the Chancellor of the Duchy to state, because I do not take it as a ruling from him; he has no right to make any ruling. I want to suggest to the Government that as I presume all the expenditure on publicity comes under this heading—as Mr. Masterman appears to come under it, I presume other publicity comes under it—the money which we vote so readily, and which I do not think is at all large under the circumstances of the War, might be better spent. There are not very many opportunities of discussing the way in which the publicity money is spent. This appears to offer the only kind of opportunity one has for it. Germany spends enormous sums of money on her Secret Service. I do not suggest that the Government should follow Germany in bribing politicians and members of military staffs and so on, as she is said to do so largely in foreign countries. That is not the kind of thing I should recommend any more than I would recommend reprisals in the murder of innocent people by counter Zeppelin raids. These are things in which I think we had better leave the Germans to set the pace. But I think we might have spent more money—and I presume we spend some—in a better way in regard to publicity. In most neutral countries we have rather gone back in the judgment of the people simply because our case has not been presented to them in an intelligible manner. In Holland, in Denmark, in Sweden, in Norway, in the United States, even in Italy itself, I think a great deal more might have been done by the expenditure of money judiciously in setting our case as regards the War before the people of those countries. In every part of the world, in the South American Republics, in Mexico, and everywhere else, the Germans have spent very large sums of money in representing their case. The lies which they have uttered have never been contradicted. I was told the other day by a friend who came back from South America that every evening the German wireless is published in Spanish in all the towns. Similar methods of presenting the real facts of what is happening have not been adopted by the Government. It is a matter which has been called attention to in newspapers over and over again, and the Government have never met the case at all. I can give one remarkable case in my own experience. A good deal of money was spent on a Commission, which was headed by Lord Bryce, for examining into 1144 the atrocities perpetrated by Germany in Belgium and Northern France. That Report was printed in English and a certain number of copies were printed in various foreign languages, but I have had complaints from various foreign countries that no copies of that Report, which produced a very great impression on those who read it, were obtainable in many foreign countries. I know that in Sweden at the end of the year no copies had ever been seen. In the United States, in many parts where the Report was particularly designed to produce an impression, and particularly in the West where German influence is strongest, no copies were obtainable for many months after publication. It was an absurd thing that so much money should have been spent on so important an object, and either for want of a proper system of distribution or from want of expenditure of more money for printing additional copies, they should not have been obtainable in many parts of the particular neutral country where it was so desirable they should have been easily obtainable. I, therefore, do ask the Government to try to improve the system of publicity which, I suppose, exists. Of course, the whole matter is secret. We do not know whether there is any publicity expenditure at all, but if there is any publicity expenditure, I do ask the Government that such money as they do spend, and if necessary a great deal more, should be spent in having the case of this country as against Germany more properly represented.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
The hon. Member who moved this reduction (Mr. King) and the hon. Member who has just spoken do not understand, or they have not understood what I said about the constitutional position. There is no reason for a representative of the Foreign Office to be here. This is a Vote accounted for by the Treasury, and the Treasury hands out this money to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, or the head of the Department, at his own command, for Secret Service. We ask no questions, and I can assure my hon. Friends that it has been the practice of the House for generations always to vote this money without discussion. The House of Commons, of course, has a perfect right to ask questions about any matter, but it has abrogated it in respect of Secret Service. Indeed, it would be no use at all having this money for Secret Service if we were to discuss details. I absolutely 1145 decline, and I do so with all respect, to answer an allegation that there is or is not publicity work carried on by the Government out of this fund. It would not help that publicity work, if it exists, to say that it is carried on by the Government out of money now voted by Parliament for Secret Service. We ask no questions. We simply vote the money. As a rule in peace time it is only £50,000, but this year we have voted £400,000. It might technically be said that the whole of that increase was a war increase, and I should have been within my rights to provide for the payment of it out of the Vote of Credit to the Secret Service, but I thought, and I think the Committee will agree with me, that it was fair to the House of Commons, seeing the freedom they give to us in the expenditure of this Secret Service money, to keep them informed of the total amount we are now spending on Secret Service, rather than take it out of the Vote of Credit. The House now knows that the expenditure for this year on Secret Service is estimated to be £400,000. In order to safeguard an increase of £350,000 over the peace amount, an expenditure which is not undertaken lightly, and in order that the House may once again have the privilege of reviewing the amount spent on Secret Service, we are taking a Vote for next year for only £200,000, with a certainty of a Supplementary Estimate, in order that we may keep the House informed of the total amount. I beg hon. Members not to destroy the whole purpose of this Vote by asking me about particular interests, or particular circumstances which they believe, and I would respectfully say they have no authority to believe, are included.
§ The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Whitley)
In order to put the matter on record for the future, I think I ought to say that perhaps I am to blame myself for lack of vigilance with respect to this Vote. Clearly the questions that have been addressed to the right hon. Gentleman are questions which, under the recognised custom in regard to this Vote, should be addressed to the Foreign Office, or, if they have to be debated, they should be debated on the Foreign Office Vote. I say that in order that it may not appear from the records of this Debate that a new practice has been entered upon.
Sir H. DALZIEL
May I ask you, Mr. Whitley, as your ruling is somewhat important—of course I recognise that it fol- 1146 lows precedent in the matter—did I understand you to say that this falls under the Foreign Office Vote? That assumes that all the Secret Service is under the Foreign Office Vote. I understand that some of this money is spent in other Departments nearer home. Would I be correct in assuming that your ruling does not preclude the matter being raised in connection with the Vote for another Department, if there is reason to think that money is spent by that Department, and that you do not limit it exclusively to the Foreign Office?
§ Mr. R. McNEILL
I understood the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Montagu) to say that this Vote necessarily came under the Treasury, that it was a Treasury Vote, and that the Treasury paid over to the Foreign Office, without question, any payments presumably coming within the sum voted by Parliament which might be asked for by the Foreign Office. Under these circumstances I should have thought the Foreign Office Vote was not the occasion on which we could discuss these matters. I understand now, Mr. Whitley, that your ruling is at variance with the statement of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. McNEILL
Then I will not press it. I do not know that it is very important at the present time. I want to say a few words as to what has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman (Mr Montagu). I entirely agree with the principle that he has laid down that it would be absurd for the Government to come to Parliament and ask for a sum of Secret Service money if the Committee were to exercise their rights of probing into the purposes for which the money is to be applied. While I entirely agree with that principle, I think that the two examples which were given by the hon. Member for North Somerset (Mr. King) are rather exceptions. They are really not Secret Service matters. As the hon. Member has shown, one case is public property; that is perfectly clear. He mentioned a well-known writer who was going about the country lecturing, and who is claiming, rightly or wrongly, not to be employed in the Secret Service of the Government now—I have no doubt that if he were making that claim the Government would know how to deal with him 1147 Very promptly—but he claims that he is able to give interesting lectures based upon his past experience in the Secret Service of the Government. I do not think that the principle which the right hon. Gentleman has laid down in any way precludes him from replying to the case made by the hon. Member for North Somerset. On the contrary, I think that it would be doing a useful service if he were to reply to the case put by my hon. Friend and say whether this gentleman, Mr. William Le Queux, is or is not justified in claiming that he ever was employed by the Government in the Secret Service. If the Government could say that he never was so employed, then the stories he is telling in the country become mere cock-and-bull stories, and I think it is very likely they are. If, on the other hand, he was at one time employed by the Government in the Secret Service it cannot be any harm to the Secret Service of to-day if the right hon. Gentleman said that that was a fact, or if the Government, as I think they ought to do in that case, took some steps such as were suggested by my hon. Friend to put an end to this gentleman's activities. I quite agree that just as a Cabinet Minister is not at liberty when he retires from the Cabinet to publish his reminiscences, giving what he remembers of Cabinet transactions, so a gentleman who has been employed in the Secret Service ought not to be at liberty to publish his reminiscences, and I think the Government in such a case ought to take stringent measures to prevent him doing so.
The hon. Member mentioned also the case of Mr. Masterman. I agree that that case rests upon rather a different footing. I do not know whether Mr. Masterman is being paid out of this £400,000 or not. It may very well be that he is being paid out of some other funds under the Vote of Credit. Mr. Masterman's salary has been the subject of a certain amount of discussion in the House, and it is perfectly well known—it is public property—that he is employed by the Government. In fact that has been admitted by the Prime Minister. It is also well known that he is receiving a salary. Therefore, so far as we have proceeded at present in regard to Mr. Masterman, we are not trenching upon any secret information in regard to which it would be to the detriment of the public service if the right hon. Gentleman had thought fit to reply. If Mr. Master- 1148 man's activities have ceased to be absolutely of a Secret Service character—if they were ever intended to be so—he had no one but himself to blame. With regard to Mr. Masterman's activities, I am not going to deal with them in any way indiscreetly. I think it is a matter which ought to be discussed, but as the Government think differently I am not going to discuss it. I may say this much, because it is well known, that Mr. Masterman began his activities in his present work, which I will not describe, by holding a meeting of London editors. The very last thing that you would expect for a Secret Service agent to do would be to explain his activities—
§ Mr. MONTAGU
On a point of Order. I shall have to interrupt the hon. Member. The position that the Committee finds itself in is, I admit, a position of some difficulty. It is clearly out of Order to discuss Mr. Masterman's salary if it is not included in this Supplementary Estimate. I venture to submit, Mr. Whitley, that there is no indication that there is any part of Mr. Masterman's salary paid out of this Supplementary Estimate, and that, therefore, it is improper to discuss Mr. Master-man's activities now, and that such discussion has never taken place on the Secret Service Supplementary Vote before in this House.
§ Mr. McNEILL
May I save you the trouble, Mr. Whitley, of giving a ruling upon the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman by saying that, in consequence of the attitude which he adopts, as shown by his point of Order, I certainly shall not pursue the subject any further.
§ Question, "That a sum, not exceeding £49,900, be granted for the said Service," put, and negatived.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.