HC Deb 13 February 1918 vol 103 cc235-6

Whereupon Me. Speaker, pursuant to the Order of the House of this day, proposed the Question, "That this House do now adjourn."


During the course of his speech just now the Noble Lord the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, challenged my accuracy when I said that Lord Curzon had criticised severely the Anglo-Russian agreement about Persia of 1907, and he advised me to look up my references. I told him I would do so, and I informed him that I intended to raise this matter on the Adjournment. I regret, therefore, I cannot see him in his place. I shall not trouble the House long, but I have looked through the Official Reports of 1908, when this Treaty was discussed in the House of Lords. It was discussed on two occasions. The first was on the 6th of February, when Lord Curzon made a speech which occupies twenty-six columns of the OFFICIAL REPORT, in strong criticism of this Treaty. I do not intend to give even one quotation from this ponderous oration, but, on a later occasion, on the 6th of June, 1908, Lord Curzon again criticised this Treaty, and on that occasion he used these words: We cannot congratulate His Majesty's Government on their diplomacy. Then he said again, a little later on, I have no great admiration for this treaty." He said also, Though the main objects of this treaty are admirable, as for the terms I think them bad. Yet, in spite of quotations like these, which I can multiply, the Noble Lord, who presumably knows something of the history of diplomacy, the history of his own Department, and of foreign affairs, says that Lord Curzon never criticised this Treaty at all adversely. I will trouble the House with one more quotation of his Lordship upon this Treaty, a quotation so sweeping in its condemnation and so appropriate to the present time that I commend it to the attention of the House. Lord Curzon used these words: I am almost astonished at the coolness, I might almost say the effrontery, with which the British Government is in the habit of parcelling out the territories of Powers, whose independence and integrity it assures them at the same time it has no other intention than to preserve, and only informs those Powers concerned afterwards of the arrangements when the agreement has been concluded. That is the way in which Lord Curzon spoke of this Treaty of 1907, and which the Noble Lord says his colleague at the present time never criticised adversely at all. Let me point out that this quotation about having the effrontery to parcel out territories of Powers with which it presumably is in alliance, and then telling them that it has done so is just what we have done, or, if I may put it otherwise, just what the treaties have done, because I declare that neither this House nor this country would ever tolerate these treaties for one moment if they were ever put openly before them. It is what we have done with respect to our obligations to Serbia, to Montenegro, to Greece, and I believe to other parts, and therefore it is with particular satisfaction that I call the attention of the House to the opinions of Earl Curzon on our traditional diplomacy in days when he was in a position of greater freedom and less responsibility.

Adjourned accordingly at a Quarter after Eleven o'clock