§ Mr. LEES-SMITH
I wish to ask the-Foreign Secretary whether he has any information which he can now give to the House with regard to the rumours which are current about the intentions of Japan in Asiatic Russia, and whether he can now say anything as to what the-attitude of the Government on that question is? I think he will agree that we are now, at any rate, justified in raising this question. It has already been discussed in the Parliament of practically every one of the Allies which has any close interest in the subject. It has been discussed in the American Senate, it has been discussed by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the French Chamber of Deputies, and it has been discussed in the Japanese House of Representatives, and, although no statement has been made in this House, a public statement of the most important character was 511 made to the Press at the close of last week by the Minister of Blockade. I will read the salient passages, and I think the House will see that it is of a most significant and even a most startling character. These are the words to which I would call the right hon. Gentleman's attention:As an independent Sovereign State Japan will take whatever action she thinks right. I certainly should not be surprised if Japan thought it desirable, in her own interest and that of the Allies, to send troops to prevent the Germanisation of Siberia. Personally I should welcome a decision by Japan to act as the mandatory of the Alliance in that kind of way. I think we should be well advised to seek the assistance of our Japanese Allies in a matter in which she, and she alone, can do effective service.That, at any rate, is a most serious statement. It indicates what we may presume to be in the mind of the Government at the time it was made. If it indicates the mind of the Government still—and things have occurred since—it seems to me that is not only one of the most fateful statements in the history of the War, but I believe one of the most unfortunate. We have been given no official reason for the action contemplated, so I have been obliged to collect, as far as I could, the reasons which have been given from different directions. I had to collect them largely from the statements and arguments put forward from the newspapers, but more serious and considered statements have been made by foreign Ministers, particularly by M. Pichon, the French Minister for Foreign Affairs. I quite understand that the statements in the newspapers are not official, and may be repudiated, but still they must be noticed, because the fact is that those statements in the newspapers have been almost unanimous in their arguments, and even in their language, and give every appearance of having been directed from a single source.
May I take one or two of the most important arguments which have been used'? There are, it is said, and it is true, great stores of arms and ammunition at Vladivostock which were given to the Russians by the United States and by Japan, and which they are entitled to have returned and paid for by this country. But I understand there is no evidence that the Russian Government has expressed any unwillingness to return them, and the Russian Government—through President Wilson—sent an official notice only yesterday. I under- 512 stand also, from an answer in this House, that the Japanese themselves have refrained from asking that they should be returned, and therefore I cannot see that those arms and ammunition by themselves constitute any ground for a declaration of war. Then there have been a number of stories in the newspapers with regard to the great collection of Austrian and German prisoners in Eastern Siberia, and the theory which has been worked out is that they would receive arms from the present Bolshevik Government, and that a German general was on his way to organise an army. That all seems to me very improbable. The Bolsheviks, whatever else one may say of them, have as great a hatred of the German military machine as any other party in Russia, and, apart from that, there is no evidence at all of the existence of any of these prisoners in Eastern Siberia. The story is not based on any authority. There is no substantiation of where it has come from. It has emanated mysteriously in Peking, which is a thousand miles away. I notice that the Minister of Blockade, in his statement to the Press and in the reply which he gave in this House yesterday, was quite unwilling to say that he believed in the truth of the story either about prisoners or about a German general being on his way. As a matter of fact, I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman will make any use of that particular story, because I understand that it has now been abandoned, and the Press for the last week, at any rate, has almost unanimously refrained from saying anything further about it. The fact is, that there is no evidence at all that the German Government intend to play into our hands and to dissipate their forces by the mad enterprise of an expedition into Siberia. I do not know anything about the question of strategy, but I venture to say that the Foreign Secretary is unable to produce a considered statement from any of his military advisers to say that such an expedition is in the remotest degree probable or practicable. The Germans are at the present moment 100 miles west of Petrograd. The theory that has been put forward is that while the Germans are still so far away as that, it is indispensable to Japan to seize Vladivostock, Manchuria, and the Amur Province in order that they may then advance into Siberia. While the Germans are 100 miles west of Petrograd, and at a 513 moment when it is fairly clear that they are not going to enter Petrograd, and when the military movements towards Petrograd have ceased, the argument that the danger is so desperate that Japan must now, immediately, without delay, seize Vladivostock, Manchuria, and the Amur Province, and then march into Siberia, will not convince anybody who looks at the map. These are the arguments which have been with strange unanimity of language and policy disseminated throughout the British Press.
May I come to what I realise are the more serious and considered arguments of M. Pichon? He has not dwelt upon the military aspect of the situation at all. He has stated that Japanese aid is being asked for and demanded by millions of Russians, and that if Japan enters Siberia it will be at the request of the larger and more responsible sections of the Russian people in order to bring some sort of order and organisation into that distracted country. There is, as everybody knows, disorder and disorganisation in Russia, but after all, the Russian Revolution is only twelve months old, and it is quite evident that the amount of disorder and disorganisation in Russia now is not any greater than in any revolution of similar magnitude at the end of the same period of time. In any case, whatever the disorder and disorganisation in Russia at this moment, I believe that if our object is to help, the best way to do so is to allow Russia to work through her disorder and disorganisation for herself, and so work out her own salvation for herself with as little interference as possible from any foreign Power.
§ Mr. LEES-SMITH
If we are going to restore order and organisation into Russia behind Japanese bayonets, if we are going to take part in a civil war in that country, if we are going to bring back Kerensky or the Cadets, or Korniloff -or the Czar, behind the arms of an Asiatic Power, then we might as well tear up every democratic profession with which we entered the War, and it will mean the moral bankruptcy of the Alliance. I do not believe that any of these are the real reasons. The real reasons are not military reasons. The real reason is not this 514 zeal for organisation in Russia. The real reason lies behind all that. It is simply this, that Russia is defeated and helpless and unable to protect herself, and I hope that the Alliance, at any rate, are not going to take advantage of that situation.
§ Mr. LEES-SMITH
Hon. Members refer to Germany. When Germany occupied Poland, Courland, and Lithuania we in this country, and the President of the United States, said that it was an act so infamous that we could not allow it to stand. What are we going to say if we are parties to an act of spoliation on the other side of Russia, which would be worse than the German act of spoliation, because to seize the territory of a Power whom you have defeated is more easily to be defended than to seize the territory of a Power with whom you are at peace merely because she is unable to defend herself. [An HON. MEMBER; "What do the Germans say?" Hon. Members may be amused at what I say, but if we are going to do to Russia in the East what Germany has dune in the West, then I ask, for what single moral principle shall we be able to say we are fighting in this War? It is not only the question of Russia, it is not only Russia that we shall have sacrificed, but it will mean that we are abandoning two, at any rate, of those little nations whom we said we went into this War to protect. If we allow Russia to be despoiled of her provinces in the East then we shall not be able at any Peace Conference effectively to raise our voices on behalf of her provinces in the West, on behalf of Poland, Courland, Lithuania or Roumania. The Noble Lord the Minister for Blockade stated that Japan is an Independent Sovereign State, and that she will take what action she thinks right. But if this thing is going to be done then I assure the Noble Lord that no technical reasons can obscure our responsibility in the matter. If this is done, whether Japan does it by herself or if she does it as the Noble Lord said as the mandatory of the Alliance, the Alliance as a whole will be responsible, and among the Allies this country, the Ally of Japan, is, as the United States has been pointing out, in a special position and would have a responsibility heavier than any of her Allies.
515 In the last few days an incident has occurred which I am afraid will gravely displease hon. Members who have been amused at my references, and it would appear from this incident that the decision is not yet irrevocable. Yesterday there met in Moscow the Central Soviet Congress. This Soviet Congress is the de facto Government of Russia.
§ Mr. LEES-SMITH
The hon. Member says it has brought Russia to ruin. I can only say that the attitude of many hon. Members towards that Congress is not the attitude of President Wilson. That Congress at its meeting received a message from one of the Allied statesmen, President Wilson; but that message for some reason has appeared in an extraordinarily small number of newspapers. I, therefore, propose to read its chief passages to the House. It shows that the language and policy of President Wilson is quite at variance with the language and policy of the Noble Lord the Minister of Blockade, and I think some explanation is required as to why these two messages should have emanated from leading statesmen in the same Allied combination. President Wilson's attitude towards Russia is not that of many hon. Members of this House. May I read his message? He expresses his sincere sympathy with the Russian people, and then goes on to say:Although the Government of the United States is, unhappily, not now in a position to lender direct and effective aid, it would wish to render it, I beg to assure the people of Russia through this Congress that it will avail itself of every opportunity to secure for Russia once more complete sovereignty and independence in her own affairs and full restoration of her great rôld in the life of Europe and the world.
§ Mr. LEES-SMITH
The Noble Lord contemplates a policy which will inevitably mean that Japan will have to make war upon the Soviet Government of Russia. If Japan enters Russia with her troops she will be resisted by the Government of Russia, [HON. MEMBERS: 516 "No!"] She has been resisted already; she would be resisted by the Soviet Government.
§ Mr. LEES-SMITH
Because the Soviet Government of Russia has already declared that it intends to resist, and has already organised and started resistance against Japan. President Wilson, on the other hand, states that he is willing to render to that Government, if he can direct and effective aid.
§ Mr. LEES-SMITH
The Noble Lord the Minister for Blockade desires a policy which must inevitably lead to the result that Russia will be subjected to still further loss of territory in the East. If Japan is to enter Russian territory, and occupy it as a mandatory of the Alliance, then it follows with almost absolute certainty that that territory, having been occupied, will not be returned. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Has Japan returned Korea which she entered for temporary purposes Has she returned Kiao Chow? Is there any piece of territory which she or any other great Power has occupied for temporary purposes and has returned?
§ Mr. HUGH LAW
If a policeman eaters a house after a burglar it does not follow that he will continue to occupy it?
§ Mr. LEES-SMITH
There are two answers to that. In the first place, I should say that a policeman will always leave it, but from all that I can remember at the moment a nation which does so almost invariably retains possession, and my second reply is that if the hon. Gentleman had listened to the line of reasoning which I am pursuing he would know that I had endeavoured to show that there is at this moment not any possibility of the danger of Germany occupying Siberia. Therefore I repeat that the policy which the Noble Lord outlines would almost certainly lead to the loss of Russian territory in the East to Japan,, and that is not in consonance with the policy of President Wilson, who declares, on the contrary, that what he will insist upon is a full restoration of the rô1e whch Russia previously occupied. I hope that the Government is going to follow the line of policy laid 517 down by President Wilson. If it does not do so, if it follows what is for the moment the line of least resistance and simply gives way to what I can quite understand are the desires of Japan, then 1 do not think that, even from the point of view of this country, it will be acting for our best interests in the long run. Russia at the moment is in the midst of defeat and revolution, but Russia is not dead. Russia, at the end of it all, will remain a great country. It must remain a country with population, natural resources and rate of development equal to those of the United States. I do not know Russia myself, but everyone who does know it agrees that Russia will revive. It will revive as democratic as, but more purified and stronger than, it was before. I believe that it will revive capable of making a great contribution to civilisation. When that day comes, I believe that we shall toe glad to have Russia as a friend, but if the Allies take part in this action the result which more than any other it is calculated to have is to drive Russia into the orbit of diplomacy of Germany and the Central Powers.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
I desire also to say a few words on the proposal that has been made that Japan or some other of the Allies should intervene in Siberia to an undefined extent. I think that such intervention at the present time, by Japan or any other of the Allies, would be one of those fundamental errors which lose campaigns, and turn the course of history. I want to separate myself to some extent from the point of view put forward by the hon. Member who has preceded me. My views are not the same as his. If he has incurred some hostility in the course of his speech, I think that it is due, not so much to the opinions which he expressed himself as to the opinions which he attributed to others. I find it impossible to justify the ascription of the views which he did ascribe to the Government, or those who have made this proposal for Japanese intervention. To talk about spoliation or bringing back the Czar to power as being the motive with which Japanese intervention in Siberia has been urged, I think, is not merely to misconceive the situation but to do an injustice to those who have advocated the intervention of Japan. I venture to say that there is not, on the part of any responsible or, 518 I might almost say, of any reasonable person in this country or any of the Allied countries, any desire to intervene in Siberia for the purpose either of spoliation or for bringing back Czarism, or any other precise government, into Russia. The desire for intervention has been dictated solely by the desire to guard the Allies, and to guard our Empire against great dangers which confront us at the present time—against an urgent menace. I venture to hope that the Government, after mature consideration, will not approve this proposal of intervention in Siberia at the present time for two reasons. The first is that that intervention will give rise to new and fresh dangers in addition to those with which we are already confronted. There can be no doubt on the part of those acquainted with Russia and Russian opinion—and unlike the hon. Member who has spoken last, I claim a long personal acquaintance with Russia—that such intervention at the present time would unite the warring sections in Russia, and unite them against those who intervene in this way. It would not be Germany we should have to fight; it would be Germany and Russia. Intervention at this time, in my belief, would undoubtedly throw the forces and resources of Russia into the arms of Germany. That is a fact which ought to be the subject of the gravest consideration.
They are neutralised and paralysed just now. They are not being used in any way for the purpose of attacking us at the present time. But the effect of this intervention would be to throw the forces and resources of Russia into the arms of Germany, and to leave them to Germany to be used as a direct enemy in alliance with enemies against us. Far better for us, if intervention has to come, that we should wait until it is the Germans who have been the aggressors and occupiers.
Russia would then be in revolt against them, and if we intervened we should come as deliverers, and we should be welcome. [Laughter.] It is all very well for hon. Members to laugh. I do not know if the hon. Member below me (Sir J. D. Rees) knows much about Siberia.
§ Sir J. D. REES
I do not know if the hon. Member has ever been in Siberia himself. I have travelled all over it.
Yes, I have travelled in Siberia. I am not aware whether the hon. Gentleman speaks Russian and reads it as I have done for many years.
There is very great danger of our country being committed against the Russian Revolution. We made that error, a great and fundamental error, in the case of the French Revolution. If we make it now it will have even more disastrous consequences than it had then. It involved us in long and bloody wars before, and it put back the hand of reform and progress for generations in Europe. This time it will have more disastrous consequences. Do not let us think that Russia is out of this War. Do not let us think that Russia can be wiped off the slate. The size, resources, and population of Russia cannot be ignored in that way. I noticed that there was some laughter when it was suggested that at one period, after the commencement of the French Revolution, France was in a state of equal disorder. It is true that she was in that state. Bankrupt, disorganised, under a reign of terrorism, torn asunder and bleeding, France yet became the greatest military power in Europe. There is a tendency to take a short view of the great events in which we are involved at the present time. We are right up against them. It is difficult to see them in right perspective. We are overshadowed by the huge event that is happening before us. We cannot see it in its relation to other events. We cannot see the direction in which events are marching. In order to get a true perspective I think that it would be very desirable, that hon. Members, who see nothing but the immediate event, should, after reading the morning newspaper, read a chapter of Gibbon or a chapter of the history of the French Revolution. I think the French Revolution was commenced about 1789, the Battle of Waterloo was fought in 1815, and the French Revolution was not ended then. It is a mistake to think that the Russian Revolution is simply an orgy of crime and violence. One is tempted to do so because the revolution dealt a deep blow at us, and has injured us in the great struggle which we are waging. It has handi- 520 capped us, injured us, and crippled us, and it is easy to mistake the character of the revolution because of the crimes, blunders, and ineptitudes of many of the leaders of the revolution that are patent and open to every observer.
Nevertheless, to take that short view would be a mistake and a blunder. The Russian Revolution is a greater thing even than the War; it is one of the great landmarks in the history of mankind. What does it stand for? The Russian Revolution, on its spiritual side, apart from incidental disasters and crime associated with it, what does it stand for? It stands for something very closely related to the higher objects with which we entered the War, and it is very closely related to future developments in this country. Russia is one of the greatest Empires in the world. It contains almost a sixth of the land surface of the globe, and within the ringed fence is great diversity of languages, of religions, of races, and of varieties of climate, all under one centralised Government, the most centralised Government in the world, a Government that was incompetent and incapable. There you had the evils of centralisation in a most extreme form. It was impossible that one single centralised great Government could rule, with satisfaction to the people, over an Empire of that character. The revolution, which came suddenly, is a revolt against centralisation, a revolt which has taken a form so extreme, that in its manifestations it seems to be a revolt against any Government whatever. The Bolsheviks, who, at one turn, rose on the crest of the wave, are not Constitutionalists, they are not Socialists; they are as much opposed to, shall I say, the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Maedonald) or the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snow-den), as they are opposed to Kerensky or the Government of the Czar. They are opposed to any system of Socialism carried on by the State; they are in favour of direct action by the people. [An HON. MEMBER: "Murder!"] What is the use of bandying epithets? I do not understand the use of the word "murder." It explains nothing. Let us rather try to understand the direction in which the revolution is moving. This is a revolt against the State; it. is a revolt against representative institutions. With us the masses believe in government through representative institutions. With the Bolsheviks the unit of government would 521 be the number of people who could meet together under one roof; they believe only in government by a mass assembly. For trade unions, as we know them, they would substitute mass meetings of the workers in each separate shop. It is essentially, in all its phases, from beginning to end, its moderate phases and its most extreme phases, a revolt against centralisation, and a movement in favour of decentralisation. It has taken an extreme form, and great and abominable crimes have been committed in its course.
But this great movement, which is going to affect the history of the world in the future, is one in regard to which we should understand the direction in which it is moving. How is it related to the War and to the part we are playing in the War? Putting it at its best, the purpose for which we have entered this War is to secure co-operation among nations, to establish international law, to enforce the recognition of international law, and to achieve, as one of the poets has said, the federation of mankind—the Parliament of man, the federation of the world—I am obliged to the 'hon. Member near me for that last phrase, for which I thank him. It is to impose a higher centralisation upon States for international unity. But this movement in Russia seems to be a movement against centralisation. The Allies' movement is for further centralisation for certain international purposes, for the purpose of regulating the affairs of nations, and for putting an end to the possibility of future war. That is, at its best, the highest and most spiritual purpose for which we have entered this War. At first, it would almost seem that the whole tendency and trend of the Russian Revolution must be contrary to a movement for further centralisation. I think it is not contrary, and I think they are both closely related to one another. They are simply opposite sides of the same shield. President Wilson has put the object of the Allies in this War in a phrase which receives universal assent, "to make the world safe for democracy." But if we are going to make the world safe for democracy, we have got to protect it not merely against external foes, but also against internal foes. When the War started a struggle against the external foes of democracy was inevitable. The movement put before us, the movement towards international law and the League of Nations, is one for the defence of demo- 522 cracies against external foes, by means of centralisation. But there are enemies within democracy, causing great and serious danger. The great characteristic of the British democracy is government through elected representatives—representative institutions. Do not let us delude ourselves into the belief that all is well with representative institutions. Representative institutions are sometimes confused with democracy itself. They are not identical with democracy; they are merely an instrument which democracy has invented for its own purposes and uses. It has used other instruments, and it may in future use other instruments, and we cannot disguise from ourselves that the instrument of representative institutions has fallen, for many reasons, into severe discredit and disrepute, partly on account of the War, though I do not say entirely on account of the War. Do not let us think that it is entirely on that account. We all know it has been a commonplace among Liberals that for generations past our Parliament, our legislative assembly, has been paralysed, congested, overwhelmed with work, and unable to do it. There were long arrears of legislation piled up. We have watched the gradually increasing disrespect in which it was held by the people, a disrespect which was justified by the failure of the legislative machine to give the kind of legislation that was wanted, the failure to pass it through Parliament. The Legislature had to look not merely after the affairs of the Empire, but after the affairs of the parish pump, and it could not do it.
We were suffering severely from the evils of our centralisation, and the movement for decentralisation was coming here, and coming strongly, though gradually. In Russia is has come like a flood, a deluge; it has shown us what disasters may occur when reforms are delayed. It is part of the genius of the people of this country that they know how to take occasion by the hand, and make the bonds of freedom wider still. It would be well to recognise that the great movement which has started in Russia is something cognate to the highest objects we have in the War, and also to the essential reforms which are due in this country, reforms that would bring under the direct control of the people those matters which affect their daily and domestic life. I have been led to develop this aspect of the subject rather more fully than I had intended. My first reason for objection 523 to Japanese intervention is that it will lead us into dangers with which we are not confronted at present. My second reason is that it will not meet the danger actually threatened in the East. The hon. Member referred to Vladivostock. I wish Vladivostock were the only danger with which we are threatened in the East. As to the stores and munitions accumulated there, that is a, small matter relatively to the grave dangers that face us. Even if we lost the munitions, even if they were put on the railways and transported straight to Germany, we would know exactly what we had to face. But that is insignificant in comparison with the great danger with which our whole campaign and our whole strategy are threatened in the East. The question of these stores and supplies could easily be solved by landing a few battalions and providing shipping for their transport; they could easily be brought away. But that has nothing to do with Japanese intervention on a large scale in Siberia. The real danger, threatening not Siberia at all, lies in the fact that the Germans are on the North-West Frontier of India and the frontiers of Afghanistan and Persia. The real danger lies in the fact that the Germans have got two railway lines in direct contact with these frontiers, the Orenburg Railway and the Trans-Caspian Railway. We know that in the past our statesmen and our soldiers have had many anxious moments on account of German intrigue and German menace on the North-West Frontier of India. That menace has now matured in an urgent form. But a Japanese occupation of Siberia would not help us in the slightest in regard to it; even though they advanced as far as the Urals it would not affect either of these two railways.
I do not want to pose as a strategist. I believe there are two schools with regard to the nature of this War—the Western school and the Eastern school. Personally, I have always belonged to the Eastern school. I have regarded the War as an Eastern war, not merely because there we can make the most effective attack on German ambitions and cut Germany off from her objects, but because in the East is our Achilles' heel. The Eastern Front is the British Front: not the Western. I do not believe that this War can be ended on the Western Front.
524 I do not believe any blow can be struck by either party which will determine it. Germany holds that front strongly in well-fortified and very short lines compared with the lines she has hitherto held, and at the present time she is able to take over new territories unchecked by anything we can do on the Western Front. Unless we are prepared she may deliver a blow that will force our hand, and force us from sheer necessity to withdraw large numbers of troops from the Western Front and send them Eastwards to save our Empire. An hon. Member asked me where our blow should be struck! and, although I do not pose as a strategist, I have no objection in telling him where, if I were Commander-in-Chief, or Prime Minister, or if I had the power, I would act. I would send the troops to Mesopotamia and the North-West Frontier of India. I believe it is on those fronts that the Empire can be saved. It is no use saying it is difficult and that there are transport difficulties. The question is, Is it necessary, and are we threatened there in a vital manner? If we are. then we should send the troops there.
We have heard much talk about an alternative Government and the difficulty of finding one. I do not believe there would be any difficulty. You could constitute twenty or thirty alternative Governments out of this House. Nothing would be easier. What is wanted is an alternative policy, and I am sorry to say I do not see any sign of such a thing on the part of any alternative Government. It has been freely rumoured for long that the Prime Minister holds the Eastern view, that he regards the Eastern Front as our vital front, and that he has been in favour of making far larger efforts in the East. That has been stated time and again, and never, so far as I know, has it been contradicted. The speech of the Noble Lord the Minister for Blockade also took the Eastern view, and regarded this as the vital front. If those two Gentlemen believe that, if the Prime Minister and the Minister for Blockade believe this is the vital front where a knock-out blow could be delivered, then they ought not to remain in their present positions if they cannot succeed in inducing the Government also to take that view. I hold this view so strongly that, if I could see any alternative Government prepared to pursue it, I would be willing to give it my support.
§ Mr. RONALD McNEILL
In the very Interesting speech to which we have just listened the hon. Member covered a great variety of ground, but in the latter part acted rather on the principle of the Byronic heroine, who, "swearing she would ne'er consent, consented." He told us he would not indulge in a strategical review, but promptly proceeded to give us some instructive observations on strategy. In the earlier part of his speech he devoted himself more rather to political prophecy, and I confess a good deal of what he said was over my head, while there was little when 1 was able to follow the hon. Gentleman in which I found myself in agreement with him. But I certainly did agree with what he said in the main about the Russian Revolution, its magnitude, and the far-reaching character of that great movement which, no doubt, will have its place in the history of the world. I also entirely agree with him in welcoming, on the whole, the outburst which has led from tyranny to freedom in that great country. Even when freedom takes the form of licence and disorder, it is, on the whole, to be preferred to the grinding tyranny which preceded it in Russia. My hon. Friend also gave us, in passing, a little lecture upon history; he exhorted the House to observe a sense of proportion in looking at events like the Russian Revolution, especially when comparing it, as we are all apt to do, and, indeed, bound to do, with the revolution in France more than a hundred years ago. There, I think, my hon. Friend rather sinned against his own exhortation that we should observe a sense of proportion, because the lesson he drew in comparing the Russian Revolution with the French was that we need not regard Russia as out of the War. It seemed to me the hon. Gentleman overlooked the very material facts when he compared the two great movements—first, that the Russian Revolution came upon her at a time when she was already engaged in a desperate struggle with a foreign enemy, whereas in France it came in a time of peace; and, secondly, in point of fact, it was more than three years before France even began to show herself a military Power after the time the revolution was in progress. If anything like a parallel is followed in the case of Russia, I do not think my hon. Friend can get over the idea that it takes three or four years as a minimum to produce anything like a 526 military force, and therefore, I do not think that Russia can still be regarded as a living factor in the present War.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. McNEILL
I am not going to prophesy, but I think my hon. Friend will agree with me in hoping that it will. I have no confidence whatever that Russia can be regarded as an actual force in the present War. I do not think the great part of my hon. Friend's speech bore any very close and obvious relevance to the speech of the hon. Member below the Gangway (Mr. Lees-Smith). I found it difficult in listening to the hon. Gentleman to understand what was his motive in introducing this subject at all to the House to-day, and I came to the conclusion that he revealed his object in one sentence which dropped from him in the course of the speech. I think he must have considered it his mission to preserve us from what he saw to be our impending fate, the moral bankruptcy of the Allies, and I have no doubt he hoped that he might be able to persuade the House to adopt his views—which I do not think it is likely to do—and that then we should be saved from that moral bankruptcy which he fears is coming upon us. I must confess I had not myself seen it until he quoted it, that the view which has been apparently expressed by my Noble Friend the Minister of Blockade— my knowledge of which is confined to what was quoted by the hon. Member for Northampton—is one with which I find myself in complete agreement as far as my knowledge enables me to form a judgment with my Noble Friend. I say "as far as my knowledge enables me to form a judgment," because that is why I rather regret the hon. Member thought it right, in order to save us from impending moral bankruptcy, to say what he did to-day. I am rather doubtful whether any of us who have not access to confidential and diplomatic information are in a position very strongly to say whether or not intervention by the Japanese in Siberia at the present moment would be a good thing or not. I certainly would not, of my own motion, have expressed any opinion at all, and that is the reason why I say I am very glad to learn that my Noble Friend, who has, of course, that special information, is able to express a view which, if I were not deterred by the 527 considerations I have mentioned, would undoubtedly be my view. I think it a very desirable thing at the present moment that Japan should strongly intervene both of her own account and as a mandatory of the Allies in the Far East. That is what I understand my Noble Friend said he hoped she might be able to do. Of course, it is quite true, as my Noble Friend says, that Japan, being a Sovereign Power, can in the main judge for herself, but the fact that the Japanese Government appears to be most anxious to act entirely in consultation and in conjunction with her Western Allies, is, I think, the strongest possible proof of her loyalty to the Alliance and of her desire to avoid any action which would be open to criticism either in America or in Europe. At any rate, I hope she will be able to do so. What reason has the hon. Member for Northampton given against it? I think, to begin with, that in order to make good his case for moral solvency he indulged in a good deal of imagination as to existing facts. First of all, to refer to the very real danger, as I deem it to be, arising from the release of very large numbers of German and Austrian prisoners in various parts of Russia. The hon. Member said—it was a curious expression to use about the German prisoners—that there was "no evidence of their existence in Siberia," an expression which would have been entirely in place had he been talking about the discovery of petroleum or some precious metal. It seems hardly applicable to the existence of prisoners who must be numbered by hundreds of thousands, and whose whereabouts—though I am neither better nor worse informed than the hon. Member—must be well known to large numbers of well-informed persons. I take it for granted that the Russians did take from the Central Powers prisoners who are numbered probably not less than 1,000,000 all told, perhaps more, and that a large number of these are in all probability in some part of Siberia. If the information at the disposal of our Government goes to confirm that fact, I hardly think the hon. Member below the Gangway is justified in speaking of there being no evidence of the existence of those prisoners at all. If they are there, as I take it for granted they are, surely they may constitute a very real menace, not merely in the interests 528 of the Alliance, but, what is quite as important, and in my hon. Friend's view much more important, the interests of Russia and of the Russian people.
My own view is that if it be found possible for the Japanese to intervene in. Siberia, it would be quite as markedly in the interests of the Russian people and of their ultimate fate as it would be in the interests of the Alliance. The hon. Member almost brushed aside the question of the great stocks of material which have accumulated not only at Vladivostock, but, as I believe, at other points along the Siberian Railway—immense stocks of material of vital importance from the military point of view according to the hands into which they may fall. It is of immense importance whether they are retained by anyone who can use them either by or on behalf of the Alliance or by people well disposed towards the Alliance, or whether, on the other hand, they fall into the hands of people evilly disposed towards the Alliance. This is a very material point. This vast accumulation of material there, costly and valuable as it is, has been to a large extent paid for by us, and therefore our interest in it is a very real and practical one. But the-main fallacy, if I may say so, which appears to run through the speech of the hon. Member who introduced this Motion was found in a sentence where he said that the Soviet Congress in Moscow is the de facto Government of Russia. If I read even approximately aright the present condition in Russia there is no de facto Government there: there is a revolutionary committee here to-day and gone to-morrow, composed of individuals whose opinions it is very difficult for us to understand or to gauge. So far as we know anything about them, they take one form of thought one day and a different one the next, and exercise very little control beyond a limited territory.
We see Russia broken up as we might expect it to break up into a great number of small independent republics or States, because Russia, unlike France, is composed of a great number of distinct nationalities, of peoples speaking different languages and holding different religions. Therefore, it is a country in which it is infinitely more difficult than it was in France to retain anything like the unity which common patriotic sentiment might have produced. Instead of a de facto Government all we have are 529 various committees claiming, usurping and, sometimes to a limited extent, exercising authority which rests upon no legal basis and only upon sheer naked force so far as they can establish that force, or upon acceptance so far as that acceptance goes, with no organised legal executive power by which they can carry out any laws they may pass or any executive decrees they may enact. None of the machinery which is referred to when we use the word "government" exists, and consequently the attempt of the hon. Member to represent the Soviet or the Bolshevik Government in Moscow—it was at Petrograd the other day, now it is at Moscow, and it will be somewhere else to-morrow—as being the expression of the Russian peoples will or the representative of the Russian peoples' interests appears to me to be an entirely misreading of the situation, and because of his misreading of the situation the hon. Gentleman found it so difficult, though I see no difficulty in it whatever, in reconciling the language used by my Noble Friend (Lord Robert Cecil) with the language used by President Wilson.
After all, my Noble Friend is absolutely at one with President Wilson in wishing well to the Russian people, as we are all at one in wishing them well, and when President Wilson speaks of their being restored, apart altogether from the form of Government, to all the power and position which they exercised and held in the past, he is expressing the desire of all of us. It is because we see there is no possibility of their ever achieving that ideal unless they are saved from the menace which hangs over them from Germany, that we are all anxious to take any and every means we can, first of all, to resist the power of Germany in Russia, and, secondly, to give some coherence to the Russian peoples' common power of resistance at some central point round which their national unity may once again range itself. For that reason we are wishful that any member of the Western Alliance shall take whatever steps it can from geographical or other reasons to save Russia from further military material loss; secondly, to offer a strong opposition to further advances of the Germanic power in the East, and, thirdly, to give a rallying point to the Russian people themselves when they have sufficiently passed through the throes of their revolution and are able once more to construct the machinery of an ordered 530 Government. It is for these reasons that,, if the conditions are suitable at this moment, as I gather them to be from the speech of my Noble Friend, I for one would welcome most gladly the intervention which the hon. Gentleman below the Gangway so much deprecates of the Government and the power of the Japanese in the Far East of the Russian Empire.
Captain GEORGE LLOYD
After listening to the interesting speech of the hon. Member in opening this Debate one reflects that there are few things one can say on foreign affairs in this House with; great advantage, and still fewer, at moments like this, one can say without disadvantage. But I cannot help remarking that in his references to moral obligations in the War he ignored what seems to me a rather important factor, namely, that there is still a moral call for fidelity to well-proved alliances, and that we stand in relation to Japan in a very unique and peculiar position in this-respect. I think I am correct in saying that, until this War broke out, she was our only Ally, and is to-day, except Portugal, the oldest Ally we have had. There was another side observation which I regretted in his speech, and that was when he assumed, or seemed to assume, that His Majesty's Government were, at this time, engaged in doing their utmost to persuade Japan to take one particular course of action or another.
I do not know in the least what the circumstances are, but I should very much doubt and regret if our Government, at a moment like this, took any-very strong action either to prevent or to persuade Japan to adopt any course in the Far East. At the same time, I think, we have to look at the situation in the East from the point of view of the-Japanese themselves. There are certain important factors which are perfectly clear, and are not in dispute at all. One is that the disruption of Russia, however much we may and do regret it, has upset the whole balance of power in the East, and Japan has got to prepare to safeguard herself from a menace on her flank, which is similar, if not equivalent, to the menace from which we are here protecting ourselves in Belgium. No one can deny that the breakdown of power in Russia presents a serious situation to the Japanese, and that being the case, I suggest it is not for us in this House 531 to attempt to dictate any course of policy to Japan in so far as that policy or course of action may be taken in defence of her own legitimate interests, and in defence of her future. I do not believe there is anyone in this House who would say a word to hinder Japan from doing what is necessary to safeguard the future and the safety of her people, but. I think we can go a considerable step further than that and say that, inasmuch as Japan is an old and trusted Ally of ours, who has earned our respect and gratitude by the course of action she has taken in this War, we should back Japan in any decision.
On her part it has been a loyalty of deeds as well as words, though, as I have been away, I do not know whether any tributes have been paid to her, as they ought to have been paid, in this House for that loyalty of deeds—deeds which the Australians, when they first moved West, can testify to—deeds which everyone of us who have moved about in the infested Mediterranean can testify to. Their gallantry at sea is a fit and proper matter upon which you should make some recognition in this House. I cannot help thinking that this House and the country would be very unwise to try to influence Japan, and I hope that when the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary gets up to make his statement to the House he will be able to indicate that we are not going to take any strong course to hinder or to insist on any policy in Japan, for essentially this is a Japanese question which the Japanese themselves must settle in the main. If they purport to take any wider action than that which might be contemplated now then that will be a matter for this Government and the Allies to consider. But as regards their own domestic dangers and difficulties I think we should be unwise to try to dictate any course of policy to Japan at all.
It has been objected by hon. Members in this House that the intervention of Japan may throw Russia into the arms of Germany. That would not change the situation very much from what it is to-day. T think it is safe to say that there is nobody inside this House or out of it can predict what effect any action taken in the Far East may have upon the unvocal and broken masses of the Russian people to-day. The hon. Gentleman below the Gangway said that Russia must be allowed 532 to work out her own salvation, and I think other speakers have said the same thing. We desire that they should be allowed to work out their own salvation, but not at our expense, and I do not think we should be right to be influenced in the course of our policy as regards Japan by that consideration alone. May I make one last reflection, and it is this. I do not think when the hon. Member who opened this Debate makes rather unsympathetic speeches towards one of our Allies that he reflects for a moment, or has properly reflected, on the opportunities which Japan has been afforded by this War of not co-operating with full loyalty towards us. Has he considered that we owe Japan a very deep debt of gratitude for its loyalty, and, as I have already said, its deeds and not words. That loyalty has been thorough. Japan has had every opportunity and great temptation during this War to foment intrigues in the East which might have resulted in great personal advantage in later years in India, in Burmah, even in Australia, or in any other place you like to mention. It will be found, I am certain of this, that Japan has been loyal in these ways and loyal in every sense of the word to us in this War. I for one most earnestly hope not only that very little may be said in this House at so delicate a moment in the situation, but that in anything that is said we may bear in mind that Japan has given us great evidences of the unswerving loyally of her people, and in criticising or making any reflection upon the dangers of the present moment, we should prefer to trust rather than to suspect and to assist rather than to hinder.
§ Sir J. D. REES
Surely it is an extraordinary circumstance at a time like this, when we see a black splash on the map stretching from the North Sea across Europe and Asia Minor to the head waters of the Tigris and Euphrates and almost in sight of the Persian Gulf, which is or should be an Indian lake, that this House should be debating a Motion which most ungraciously, and, as it seems to me, most unwisely deprecates any action which a faithful Ally may take in the Allied cause. I confess that it fills me with despair and indignation that the House should be discussing such a Motion on such a day. The hon. Member who moved said quite fairly that he knew nothing about Russia. He did not tell us what was the object of his Motion, and I confess I never quite gathered, unless it was to prevent one of our Allies from helping the other Allies 533 in the greatest crisis of the War. It appears to me to be an amazing thing that any hon. Gentleman should be able to bring forward such a Motion. I assure the hon. Gentleman, as one who has been round about the world a little, that it would be absolutely impossible amongst any of his fellow countrymen anywhere in the Far East to make the speech which he made to-day in this House. The feeling would be so strong against it and the feeling with Japan, and detestation of Germany so strong and violent, that his speech, with the inclinations which he has made to-day, would have been absolutely impossible for him to have delivered. What does he want? He professes great respect for Russia, but only for the remains of Russia left by Germany. It is for that he has respect. The great Russian Empire which has been dismembered and lies prostrate and bleeding is misrepresented in a manner which is painful and hateful to those who know the admirable Russian people. It is for what remains of that Empire. when it has been so crushed and treated that he shows respect, and it is not any idea of its resuscitation. He does not want to see it occupying the great place which it occupied in the world before. He only wants respect to be shown to what remains after the German aggression.
He wants to keep Japan out. Why does he want to do so? Japan occupies in the Far East to an extraordinary degree the same position as we do in the Far West. Is it for him or anyone in this country to get up and ungraciously object to intervention which may or may not, for all I know, be contemplated, and for that I am waiting for the Foreign Secretary. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman has some information on that subject. He says that the Germans are far away from Siberia. Are they? Siberia stretches right away to the Ural Mountains, and I think the Germans have spread to districts not so very far remote from the Ural Mountains. He wants to wait until they arrive at Vladivostock before our Ally, who is there, should take any steps. I hesitate to apply to such an argument the epithet which I think it deserves. What would be the use of Japanese intervention when once the Germans, who have shown themselves so capable of taking and holding on to a situation, had taken the coast opposite the islands of Japan? The hon. Member actually says that the Allies should not prey on Russia. Have the 534 Allies preyed on Russia in supplying them with munitions of war and with our money, and labour and everything to help them? Why does he suggest that the Allies should desire to prey on Russia? After making these most serious allegations against ourselves and these most ungracious strictures against our Allies, the hon. Member went on to a dissertation upon the moral principles for which we are fighting. If we are not fighting for our lives, I confess I understand nothing about this War, and I think we have every object in doing everything we can in getting our Allies to do everything they can to keep us going in this present most serious crisis.
The hon. Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Mr. MacCallum Scott) delivered a speech which was mostly a dissertation upon the Russian Revolution. May I venture respectfully to suggest that there is another side to the Russian Revolution than that which he put forward? I firmly believe that the Russian Revolution was organised by the Germans as part of their offensive. I do not think that Russia was ripe for revolution, and I believe that the Pretorians at Petersburg were bought. When the two hon. Gentlemen spoke of the high principles animating the Russian Revolution, I wondered whether either of them knew that Russia, prior to the revolution, was the most democratic country in Europe, except for the autocracy at the top. There was a democracy right throughout the country, and anybody who has lived in the villages must be aware of that fact. When my hon. Friend spoke of Siberia I asked him had he been there, and he must have been greatly obliged to me for eliciting the fact that he had, because his speech betrayed no internal evidence whatever of that fact. The hon. Member said, among other statements, that Russia was famous for its diversity of languages, and the hon. Member opposite said the same thing. I believe it is famous among Empires for having almost only one language. I believe there are three, but the Russian language, of which I happen to be an interpreter, will take you almost from end to end of Russia, and I do not know of any other Empire in the past or the present of which the same thing can be said. My hon. Friend (Mr. Scott) wanted us to send troops at once to the North-West Frontier. How are they to be sent there, where are the troops to come from, and what are they going to do when they 535 are there? Has the Indian Government, which may be presumed to know something about this matter, asked for those troops? It is really a fantastic proposition, and surely we have enough on hand at the present time without inventing bogeys on the North-West Frontier, and without suggesting to a people sensitive of rumour that they should now organise one of those rebellions which the hon. Member seems to expect, but as to which we have no proof that such is brewing. My hon. Friend is very fond of stating to the House certain facts concerning the Indian Frontier and the Russian Empire, and so on, without telling us whither his arguments lead. I suppose it ought to be so clear that it is unnecessary for him to state it, but it is not very clear to me. It would be a help to me when next he speaks on the subject if he would state exactly what it is he wants the Government to do. If it is a case of sending troops to the North-West Frontier, I believe my hon. and gallant Friend opposite (Colonel Yate) will agree with me that, even if it were possible to take troops from the Western Frontier and send them to the North-West, we should be acting very foolishly in doing so.
The hon. Gentleman is also terrified on another subject, since he said that if Japan intervenes in the East in Siberia it will throw the forces and resources of Russia into the arms of Germany. Where are those forces and resources now? If they are not in the arms or under the thumb of Germany, I confess I am unequal to reading the "Daily Mail.'' What an extraordinary argument at a time like this, at a crisis on which I do not wish to dwell I do not think it is desirable to do so, or that such a Motion as this, so odious to our gallant Allies and so ungracious to them, should be brought forward with petty debating points founded on want of knowledge. That such a Motion should be brought before the House and considered on a day like this seems to me to be a most disastrous circumstance. I do not wish to trespass further on the time and attention of the House, though I should have no difficulty at all in dealing with every point with which the hon. Gentleman dealt at equal length and with greater accuracy. I would beg the House most respectfully to consider and suggest to those on the pacifist benches that though their 536 intervention may not do great harm here it may be productive of great harm in the bazaars which are the whispering galleries of the East, and in the Press, which is often prostituted to bad purposes. It is, above all things, desirable in the House of Commons that we should hold together at present and not at any rate make points which are absolutely odious to our gallant friends and Allies.
§ Mr. BUXTON
In this discussion of the problems arising out of the Russo-German Treaty, perhaps undue prominence might be given to this question of Japan. There are other problems momentous enough, Heaven knows, and I venture to call attention for a moment to one of them, as distinct from the problem arising from the eastern extremity of the Russian Empire—I mean the problem arising from the southern extremity. After all, the Germans are probably a very long way from Vladivostock, and I do not know that any evidence exists for the fear that they may approach Eastern Siberia within a very long time. But it is a patent fact that they are already in touch with the Caucasus, and the news to-day of the occupation of Odessa visualises the picture-afforded of German communication established between Odessa and Batum, following upon the terms imposed upon Russia, by which the Batum and Kars district is to be handed over to German control. There are problems, I think, arising out of that to justify a few moment's attention. It is a case where Lord Salisbury's maxim may very well be recalled—the maxim that we ought to study large maps. I am one of comparatively few Members of the House who have been in the Caucasus, and I would like hon. Members-very much to realise something of the nature of that country and its importance.
The Caucasus represents the second stage in Russia's formation of an Empire. It is, after all, not so very long, as time goes, since the small Russian State made headway against the Tartar States, and found what Peter the Great called, "A window to the West." having been previously cut off from the sea. You had then added to the Russian Empire the western fringe of the Baltic Provinces, which have now, by the Russo-German Treaty, been detached, and which, in any case, were not strictly Russian, but were occupied by a mixed population, and form a separate problem from the national problem of Russia. But it is to the 537 southern side of the Russian Empire proper that I want to call attention. A hundred years or more later—that is, about a hundred years ago—the Russians turned their attention to the south, and in Napoleonic days established themselves -against the Turks and Persians on the south side of the Caucasus. As we know, they extended still further that Empire a very short time ago—in 1878—but, in the main, it is the creation of a distinct period between the early conquest of the Baltic Provinces, and the conquest of the Far East, which is a thing of yesterday. That Caucasian country is a very extraordinary, an interesting, and a wealthy country. Perhaps I may be allowed to recall for a moment what the population of that country is. In Caucasus proper there are eight and a half million people. They are about equally divided between Christians and Moslems. When you come down through Central Russia and get southward to the Cossack country, and begin again to get in sight of the Caucasus mountains that immense, magnificent, straight line of snow mountains stretching from East to West—and cross the Dariel Pass, you come into quite a different world—an immensely richer world, a world far removed from the properly Russian country—into a medley of small races, a great medley of languages, some Mahomedan races and some Christian. South of the Caucasus mountains you have about four and a half million Christians, comprising about two million Armenians, about two million Georgians, and about half a million Russians. On the Mahomedan side, you have about two and a half million Tartars and about one and a half million of other small nations or tribes.
That, clearly, is not a population that can be treated on the principle of self-determination at all. It must be an Empire if any order is to be maintained there at all, and it is one of the assets of Imperialism, properly called, that Russia has established order there where there was no order before—that is, comparative order, because brigandage has never been suppressed, but comparative order sufficient to allow a very great increase of industry and an enormous increase of wealth. It is a very rich country, of course, on account of the oil. Batum is one of the great wealth-spots of the world, because it is the exit for the oil product. But when you get down to the Araxes Valley, you suddenly come to what is virtually a. tropical country, and cotton is grown with 538 very great success in that valley. But, besides its intrinsic value, that district is of enormous importance as an important item in a route from East to West, and it is worth considering for a moment the nature of the Caucasus, of which the Germans have now obtained control as a route. The German hope in the early part of the War was, doubtless, to break out to the East, but not by this route. It was to work through Turkey, to make use of Turkey, and ultimately, perhaps, in the minds of a section of the German governing people, to make a route through Mosul and Teheran and on to Herat. Fortune, so far, has favoured the German efforts in securing a very superior route to that. We have not been able to cut that route from the South, and if we had we should not be in a position now to out the West to East route which Germany has, for (the moment, secured, because it is further north. The route now secured is a better one. The route is through Batum, Baku, and so on East across the Caspians, and by existing railways to Merv and Samarkand. There is also the route further north, which the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. MacCallum Scott) the other night said came under German control, which might be so if Russia as a whole were under German control—a direct line through Orenburg to Tashkand. But far better than that line is the line already brought under control, because the line across the Black Sea and across the Caspian is a line which is both warmer and cheaper, being largely a water route.
There is one other point of immense importance in regard to that Caucasian country. One of the most justly liberative objects which the Allies have had before them in the War has been the object of liberating a nation which has been an active ally and shed its blood very freely for us—the Armenians—and the Minister of Blockade has very frequently expressed the fervour of his interest in that cause. The Armenian cause is now in jeopardy, and it is almost impossible to see now what can be done for the Armenian. It is a paradox that probably now the best hope of doing anything for the Armenians is that the Germans themselves, and not the Turks, still keep the control of trans-Caucasia, and that it may be regarded as a matter of policy to preserve all populations as a source of revenue. The whole of this route of which I am speaking, and which is immediately in question, unlike the Siberian railway and the Pacific coast, 539 has this peculiarity, that it runs through non-Russian country. It passes, it is true, through Odessa, but even Odessa itself is only on the border of Russia. It is almost in Bessarabia, that is to say, in Roumanian country, and when you get across the Caspian again you are not, of course, in Russian country. You are among populations which have been in the past extremely anti-Russian. The Armenians and the Tartars were very anti-Russian, and the Georgians have only lately, it is believed, become more or less permeated by German propaganda.
The gravest fear must also be felt on account of the Britishers who are in the Caucasus, a country inaccessible to the Allies, a country which must be governed by some Imperial rule, and which can never govern itself as a self-determined unit. There are not only the Consular and military agents of ours in the Caucasus but relief agents, who have been working so heroically. There are also the civilian British, including a great many British women, many of them governesses in Russian and Armenian families. The Caucasus is cut off from communication now with the Allies, and there is no homogeneous national force capable of being set upon its own feet, as there is, of course, in Russia proper, because of the medley of people there. No remedy at all at present can be seen for this disastrous situation, but when a mere reversal or abrogation of the Russo German Treaty is proposed we must remember that reversal itself would not effect what we want. The Baltic Provinces want self-determination. South-East Russia needs an Imperial Government. It was anti-Russian, and the new Russia will not give it an Imperial Government. To sot Russia up again we must assume that it will be in some form a non-Czarist Russia, a non-Imperial Russia. It will afford no solution to that country, and that is true whether it be a Bolshevik or even a Cadet Russia. It will not be an Imperialist Russia, and, therefore, the whole situation bristles with difficulties which it would have been an immense object to avoid. It seems to me that the cause of so great a crisis must not go unconsidered in a Debate like this, and that it is useful and interesting to go back for a moment to the last year or eighteen months of the situation in regard to Russia. Is any factor to blame for what has occurred; because the crisis is very great and dan- 540 gerous indeed? Let us look back on the situation previous to the Russian Revolution. There was still a prospect that Russia would advance again from Erzeroum, and we had accordingly made the treaty with Russia and France allotting the boundaries of Armenia and Syria to the Allies. But the Russia of the Czar was already deeply suspect. The Grand Duke had been dismissed from the chief command by corrupt and other influences. I remember my own brother, who went to Tiflis in relation to relief work, discussing with the Grand Duke what measures should be taken, and he was impressed by the precarious position in which the Grand Duke then stood, and on all hands there was talk of disloyalty and positive pro-Germanism in the Russian Army. If a settlement could have been made then, if these subsequent disasters could possibly have been forestalled, everyone knows how vital it was that that should be effected. Then came the moment when the late Government was upset, owing, as the public now believe, to the proposal which Lord Lansdowne made, and the discussions which followed. The change of Government took place, and it is generally understood that there was a difference of opinion upon the question of stating the Allies' aims in a more moderate or a less, moderate form. There followed at once in January the Allied statement of aims which committed the Allies to aims such as the encroachment upon Austria-Hungary, not to say the dismemberment of Austria-Hungary, and a great encroachment on Turkey, which clearly made a settlement impossible, and led to a prolongation of the War. That is all intimately connected with what happened in Russia and led up to the present point. The sequel came in. March with the revolution. The defection became evident with the advent: of the Kerensky Government, and even before that in the time of the Lvoff Government. It was seen to be a virtually accomplished fact during the summer. It was evident, when the Stockholm Conference was not permitted, and when despair increased in Russia, that Russia would not fight again, all the more so-because an offensive was attempted by the revolutionary Government and failed-What I mean is that the present crisis is not a new crisis at all; it is the result of the defection of Russia which took place months ago, and the cause of it is in reality 541 the unwillingness of Russia to fight for certain aims put forward, rightly or wrongly, by the Allies. Those in authority faced this disaster quite knowingly. Their eyes were open to what must be coming, they wrote off Russia as a factor in the War, and apparently without any plan by which that result was to be met. The surprise now felt by the public is no surprise at all to those who have had to consider in the course of their duty what was likely to happen as the result of the events which were occurring. I feel we ought to consider without any prejudice where really lies the responsibility for this disaster. The programme of aims led to it, but though it led to it, it should not be attacked if the aims were just aims. In that case the defection of Russia was merely the act of God, an inevitable thing for which no one was responsible. It is true that disasters injure Governments, but that is not really fair, and I do not desire to attribute the blame to the aims policy of the Allies unless it can be shown that those aims were mistaken in themselves. When this Government was formed, I welcomed its formation very warmly. I thought its predecessor was not active in many directions, and I am more than impartial in the judgment I venture to form of it now—I am decidedly prejudiced in its favour—and when one expresses regret and disappointment at the course which has been taken I myself only feel that loyalties, affections, and partialities should not at a time like this impose silence on us if we hold opinions and think those opinions should be expressed. What I think is that this Government took a wrong turn in regard to war aims, and instead of applying the reason and calculation which military events up to that time had shown to be wise, followed a course which, in regard to military events was, in fact, reckless. What to my mind settles the matter is that the aims advanced by the Allies have largely already been withdrawn. Many of those on account of which, as I believe, Russia was lost, have been dropped now. For instance, the break-up of Austria has been definitely dropped, for while it was demanded in January, 1917, it was repudiated in January, 1918. We used to hear from the Prime Minister of the necessity of the "knock-out." That was another cause of the alienation of feeling in Russia. That is not heard of now. Above all, events have proved that the 542 attitude of moderated aims if adopted a. year ago would have proved a strong.; policy. If the Allies had then made a. settlement embodying restoration and not, victory, who will deny that Russian sympathies would have been retained, if not wholly very largely, and if such a peace could have been secured, who would doubt that a peace on that basis would not be-preferable to the situation of to-day? Russia, if only merely restored, with the-munitions intact which she then held—the-frontiers of the old Russia restored—that would be a very welcome exchange for no-Russia at all. Again, a year ago the situation was more favourable. Only the other day we learned from Lord Milner that German feeling was more favourable a year ago than now. Something like a restoration peace was more acceptable at that time. It may be said you could not have-kept Russia fighting anyhow. That may be the case; nobody can tell. We can only say that the Russian Government evidently was sincere in its appeal that it could not keep Russia loyal for the War on the basis of the former aims. Another piece of evidence is the apparent opinion of President Wilson. At all events it is undeniable that we did not try that method of keeping Russia in the War, and that was the only method by which she could have been kept in the War. The decision of the Government was to adhere to the-policy of obtaining a peace by victory, a. humiliating peace.
Really I must point out that this Consolidated Fund Bill deals. with the Vote of Credit for the ensuing financial year, and therefore hon. Members. must deal with present and future policy rather than with the past. They can only refer to the past in so far as it relates to. the present and the future.
§ Mr. BUXTON
I apologise. I was not. aware of that. I thought it was in order to refer to the conduct of the Government in its action with regard to the future. I bow to your ruling.
It must be within limits. The hon. Member has been half' an hour without coming to the practical application of his remarks.
§ Mr. BUXTON
If I am not in order, I will not pursue that line, but I do not see how we can consider the future without considering what led up to it, and considering what line ought now to be taken. 543 I find it difficult; I do not really think it is possible. However, I would only urge in conclusion that it is not just, it is not reasonable to decide upon the policy now being pursued without connecting it with the policy pursued in the past. To my mind neglect of the past may fundamentally vitiate the position you take up in regard to the future, and that, I think, is partly the reason why the doubt as to our aims has destroyed to a great extent that unity of national feeling which existed in the earlier days of the War in this country—a unity which now, I think, would be maintained by the reversion to those original aims. Coming now to practical proposals, the proposal which alone can restore unity of feeling in this country, and which even now can appeal in Russia to those moderate forces, not Bolshevik forces, to which we desire to appeal—that remains, as it was in the time of the Kerensky Government, a restoration policy.
There are some objections in Russia, as there was from the first, to a policy which is regarded there as not being based on restoration alone. That idea of attempting to revert to a policy of restoration and of a readiness to attempt to negotiate a settlement when the time comes when it is possible to negotiate on such a basis, is now associated with the name of Lord Lansdowne, and yet those who, like Lord Lansdowne, urge a considered and reasoned settlement are supposed to be lacking in patriotic feelings. The alternative policy which has been pursued has led to a succession of disasters, and I think it must be admitted may possibly lead to a catastrophe. Many of the activities which the Prime Minister has set on foot ought to have the warmest support of all of us. This is not a question of pacifism; it is a question of reason and calculation against recklessness. I hope we are all agreed that we should fight to the end for the results we want, and what we want is in the main a stable peace after the War. The difference comes in with regard to the material that is to be used for that purpose. We all agree that the physical factor is the main one, but the psychological factor has been neglected in the diplomatic conduct of the War, although the Foreign Secretary has rather indicated his view that it has been rightly directed. It is not a matter 544 of pacifism at all; it is a question of the unreasoning and reckless influences which have got the upper hand. There is a grave danger of disastrous developments unless the more calculating forces, represented in the public mind by Lord Lansdowne, obtain the upper hand in the conduct of our war policy.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. Balfour)
I am not quite sure that I have fully apprehended the purpose for which my hon. Friend has made the speech to which we have just listened. I do not gather that he drew any precise moral from his survey of the past, and although that survey in its full development was not permitted by you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I think we heard enough of it to understand the sort of line my hon. Friend desires our thoughts to pursue. I believe I am right in saying that he would have liked a year ago to have had what he calls a "peace by restitution"; in other words, he would have been content if the frontiers of France, Belgium, and Italy had remained where they were before the War broke out.
§ Mr. BUXTON
I said with adjustments possibly between self-determination on the French and Italian frontier, and, let us say, claims in the colonial field.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
I do not follow the last sentence. I understand that there are to be adjustments which we have no ground for believing the Central Powers would for one instant accept. There are to be adjustments which would give, I do not know how much, but something important I presume, to France and Italy. In every other respect the world should be restored, as far as frontiers are concerned, to prewar conditions. I am not going into that question. I think I can show the hon. Member that that is a very narrow and crude way of considering the problem of peace after the War, and I do not need to pursue it. Let me say it is clearly quite inconsistent with the doctrine of self-determination. The doctrine of self-determination of nationalities, as explained to the world by President Wilson and others, is certainly much more than a mere adjustment of frontiers, even using the expression "adjustment of frontiers" with the latitude which has become familiar with German politicians. The hon. Gentleman says the late Government fell on account of the same views expressed by Lord Lansdowne. That is entirely new, but it has no historic basis in fact what- 545 ever. It is a legend, and, for anything I know to the contrary, it may have grown up in the Press. It is absolutely, as far as my knowledge of what passed in the Cabinet, of which I was a member, was concerned, entirely without foundation.
Another illusion which the hon. Member has is that he thinks Russia would have been kept in the War if we had made an announcement of our war aims. I have no reason whatever to think that the announcements made by Russian statesmen, as my hon. Friend will remember, have always included self-determination, and that never can be squared with mere adjustments. The hon. Member's statement that Russian (statesmen, by their declarations, have materially limited the scope of the War I believe to be inaccurate. I can assure my hon. Friend to the best of my belief that he has entirely misrepresented the play of political and social forces in Russia if he thinks the reason why Russia went out of the War is that our war aims were not publicly or semi-publicly reconsidered at the Conference of the Allies.
§ Mr. BUXTON
I did say that the restatement of aims was a method by which Russia might have been kept in the War. May I ask the Foreign Secretary if there was hope that any other method might keep Russia in the War?
§ Mr. BALFOUR
The hon. Member has suggested a remedy. I do not profess to have a remedy for the misfortunes that have occurred, as I think to civilisation itself, from the fact that the Russian Revolution occurred in the middle of a European war. 1, in common with every man an this House, I would almost say in common with every man in the country, welcome the change from autocracy to what we hoped, and still hope, what we believed and still believe, is going to be a reign of ordered liberty. The revolution, unfortunately, came at a time when Russia was weary with the sacrifices of a great war, and it was mixed up, and almost overshadowed on its political side, by pacifist influences which were allowed to reign uncontrolled in the Army, the Navy, and all the other forces which might have been, and should have been, co-ordinated to resist the common enemy.
I think two or three hon. Gentlemen, in the course of this afternoon's Debate, have drawn a parallel or a contrast, as the case may be, between the Russian and the French Revolutions. There are 546 resemblances in the fact that we hope from the Russian Revolution there will spring up in the future as great advantages to mankind, or to the country immediately concerned, as sprang from the French Revolution. We can trace many of the faults, many of the crimes, which stained the French Revolution in the faults and crimes which unhappily stained the Russian. Revolution, and which, perhaps, are inseparable, however much we may regret it, from any great social convulsion. From our point of view, and the point of view of the War, and the point of view of how we are to secure in the future the freedom of small nationalities, and how we are to save the world from the domination of one over-greedy Power, no greater misfortune could have occurred than the coincidence between the Russian Revolution and the fact that a War was being conducted in which Russia was one of the great Allies.
Personally I am an optimist about Russia, but I am not an optimist about the immediate future of Russia, because it seems to me that the difficulties thrown in Russia's way by the fact that the War raged before the revolution. Russia is only nominally out of the War at the present time. She is still suffering from the invasion of her enemy, and that is the real problem which touches all the questions raised by my hon. Friend (Mr. Buxton) and all the questions raised by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Lees-Smith) who initiated this Debate. In France the French Revolution is associated with great military operations. It ended in the production of an army whose high efficiency was the wonder of Europe, and which overturned all the decrepit monarchies in the Central European States. Contrast that with what has happened in Russia since the revolution. There is not a single fighting instrument possessed by Russia which the Russian revolutionaries have not deliberately, but absolutely and completely destroyed.
The Russian Army no longer exists, and the Russian Navy no longer exists. The Roumanian Army—that most gallant and most unfortunate body which might have and which would have co-operated to preserve both Russia and Roumania from the tyranny of the Central Powers—has been betrayed by Russia itself, opposed by Russia itself, its position rendered impossible, its supplies cut off, its communications destroyed. The unhappy results of 547 the revolution from the military point of view are quite plain and obvious to the most careless observer. I do not wish to cast the slightest aspersion on the sincerity and zeal of the Russian revolutionists. I am speaking of the Bolsheviks at this moment. Perhaps their predecessors were not wholly guiltless of the same error—I am unable to read the hearts of men. I do not presume to judge persons with whom I have no acquaintance, and of whom I am very ill-qualified to express an opinion. But that the actual course which they have pursued would render them completely helpless in the face of German aggression was from the first obvious to the whole world, and it is now obvious to these statesmen themselves. Now they express the desire— 1 am sure they express it genuinely and earnestly—that they should reconstitute the Russian Army for the purpose of Russian defence, and they would welcome our assistance doubtless in carrying out this object. But can you reconstitute it for purposes of national defence? Can you improvise a new instrument when the fragments of the old instrument are lying shattered around you I It cannot be done in a day. Had Russia not been at war, I believe it would have taken many years to have completed the course -what I hope and believe is to be the beneficent course—of the Russian Revolution.
Autocracy, however necessary it may have been to create Russia—and it is very difficult to see how the Russia we know could have been created without it—showed itself quite incapable of bringing into existence that frame of mind which makes a great self-conscious nation independent of the particular form which its institutions may have at the moment. The autocracy was destroyed, it fell almost without a blow, and immediately Russia fell into chaos. Really, it is not true to say—I am not sure that it was not my hon. Friend behind me who said it—that exactly the same thing happened in France. The same thing did not happen in France. I do not say that you cannot find in this or that episode parallels to the French Revolution, but the total effect of the French Revolution was not the disintegration of France but its integration. The units out of which modern France was constructed were no doubt compacted into a nation under the old monarchy, but the divisions between 548 these units were still obvious. They still remained in the institutions of the country, and it was not until the revolution, until the passions excited by the revolution, and the love of unity which the revolution brought forth, that France became homogeneous from end to end, and all the old provincial distinctions were swept away. Precisely the opposite has happened in Russia.
The revolution comes and immediately all the old divisions between populations, between different regions, between different creeds, have suddenly become marked and prominent. First this body and then that body threatens to fall away, and it must take time, inevitably take time, before we see the end of that process and know clearly how much of the old Russia, if any, ought to cease to form part of the new Russia, and how the new Russia will be constituted. A very difficult process in time of peace, a very difficult process in time of prosperity. But how are you going to carry it out in time of war, when you have at your gates an enemy remorseless, persevering, quite unscrupulous, like that which is dealing, at its own sweet will, with Russia at the present moment? That is the real difficulty which we have all got to think over and to deal with to the best of our ability when we consider some of the problems raised by the hon. Gentleman who initiated this Debate. His speech was a violent attack—1 do not use the word "violent" in any offensive sense, but it was a strong attack—on what he conceived the policy of the Government to be with regard to Japan and Siberia, entirely oblivious of the facts which I have just tried to bring before the House, and based upon a profound misunderstanding of what any human being has ever thought, contrived, or desired with regard to Allied intervention, Japanese or other, in Russian affairs. The hon. Gentleman's whole speech was based upon the idea that a Japanese expedition to Russia was designed to bring about, and would inevitably have the effect of bringing about, the dismemberment of Russia. No other hypothesis ever occurred to him as either probable or, indeed, possible. He laid down as a universal proposition that whenever one country sends troops into another, those troops invariably stay where they are sent, and annexation is the result—a very bad look-out for the North of France.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
It is a very bad lookout for the North of France if there is the slightest foundation in that theory. Of course, such events have occurred, but the idea that they must occur—it is obvious that they ought not to occur—I think the hon. Gentleman, on reflection, will admit is really absurd. At all events, if he wants to understand the view of those who think that the time may come when Japanese aid may be very properly given in this contest, he must remember the two points that I have described. In the first place, under those circumstances the Japanese would be the friends, and not the enemies of Russia. They would be Allies of Russia against Germany. Not the plunder of Russia, but its preservation from Germany would be the object. Everybody who heard the hon. Gentleman's speech—there were not many Members in the House—must be perfectly well aware that was an hypothesis which never even occurred to him. I think that it does not say much for the hon. Gentleman's perspicacity, or perhaps I ought to say his charity. I should like to ask him a question. I do not at all suggest that these problems are not problems of immense difficulty. He says that Germany is still 100 miles west of Petrograd. Petrograd is, I should think, some 3,000 or 4,000 miles west of Vladivostock. What possibility or probability is there that Germany will get to Siberia and commit any injury inside Siberia either upon Russia or upon the cause of the Allies? I do not think the hon. Gentleman understands the condition of Russia of which I have endeavoured just now to give a sketch to the House.
I do not for a moment believe that Germany is going to try and send great organised military forces from Riga to Vladivostock. I agree that would be probably an operation of very great difficulty, and certainly, from a purely military point of view, would be a very great, unnecessary and even fatal waste of power. But does the hon. Gentleman not see that now Russia lies absolutely derelict upon the waters, and that now it has no power of resistance at all there can be a German penetration from end to end of Russia which, I think, will be absolutely disastrous for Russia 550 itself and certainly will be very injurious to the future of the Allies. I do not believe that the hon. Gentleman knows how far this kind of penetration has already gone on. I suspect that at this moment a German officer is much safer travelling at large through Russia than an Allied officer. Why? Not because the Russians love the Germans, but because, as a matter of fact, the German penetration has really struck at the root of Russian power. I was informed the other day that, only one bank was allowed at Moscow. That bank is a Gorman bank. The Bolshevik Government, I believe, sincerely desire—I hope not too late, though I fear it may be so—to resist this German penetration. How can they resist it when they themselves, or their predecessors, have destroyed every instrument which makes resistance possible?
If the hon. Gentleman and the House have followed me so far, they will perceive that inevitably Russia's Allies have to ask themselves whether, if Russia herself has destroyed every instrument of self-protection which she once possessed, they cannot themselves among themselves supply that which she now lacks. We do that in Russia's own interests and for Russia's own sake, if it is done. It is not done to satisfy the greed of this or that Power. It is not done with any hope of gain. Good Heavens, our relations with Russia in this War do not suggest gain! It is done because we believe in the cause we are fighting, because we believe if Germany does really penetrate and send its tentacles through the whole of that vast Empire, not by vast armies travelling from East to West, but by methods perfectly well-known to Germany and well within her power, that there will be a transference of the huge resources of Russia, especially of the richest part of the Russian Empire, namely, Western Siberia, to say nothing of those vast military stores of which one hon. Gentleman spoke rather airily in the course of this Debate, and which I can assure him His Majesty's Government would be very reluctant to see transferred from the Allied side to the enemy's side.
That is from the Allied point of view. But may I ask the House to consider this question from the Russian point of view? It is, of course, impossible for any man to pretend to penetrate the future. Russia has always been a country of surprises. A country of surprises it remains at the 551 present moment. What are the things that most of us fear for Russia herself when we look into the future? Frankly, 1 will tell the House what I most fear for Russia. It is this: Under the impulse, under the shock of the great revolutionary cataclysm, all social order has been shaken to its foundations. As everybody knows, many disasters have occurred, and, I fear, many crimes have been committed. It is Germany's interest, I believe, to foster, to continue, and to promote that condition of disorder. Those who watch Germany's methods throughout the world know quite well that she always wishes to encourage disorder in every other country but her own. If the country is a Republican country, then she wishes to introduce Absolutism; if it be a country under Absolute Government, then she wishes to encourage rebellion. She counts it her gain that other Governments should be weak, and she knows well enough that there is no better way of making other countries weak than making them divided —houses divided against themselves.
Therefore, I believe Germany, unchecked, will do her best to continue these disorders which, unhappily, already have stained the path of the Russian Revolution. What will be the result? What must be the result? The result must be—especially in a country where a sense of national unity appears, at all events for the moment, to be singularly weak compared with that which prevails in other civilised countries—that men will at last look round and say to themselves, "This disorder is intolerable. It makes life impossible. Human effort cannot go on. Something must be done, good or bad, to put an end to mere chaos" There will, therefore, be different classes in Russia, some from patriotic motives, some from personal and purely selfish motives, who will welcome anything in the world which gives them the semblance of a stable, orderly, and civilised Government. When that time comes, then I conceive that Germany will say, "Now we will step in. We will, by all the open and subterranean methods which we have developed and cultivated, now exercise our power in the country. We will re-establish, possibly in some new form, possibly even in its old form, the autocracy," which we in this House hope will have gone for ever, and you will have, in a Russia shorn of some of its fairest provinces, set up again an 552 autocracy far worse than the old autocracy, because it will lean upon a foreign Power for its continued existence.
If that prophecy come to pass—and I most earnestly hope that I am in this a false prophet—then, indeed, all our dreams of Russian development and Russian liberty will be gone. Russia under this government would be a mere echo of the Central Powers. It will cease to be a makeweight in any sense to German militarism. It will have lost all that initiative and all that power for self-development which we so earnestly hoped the revolution had given it. The picture I draw I admit is an imaginary picture, as all pictures of the future must be. I admit it is a dark and sombre picture. Will anybody have the courage to say that they can draw a horoscope of the future more likely to be fulfilled if Russia remains, as I fear she is at this moment, absolutely helpless in the face of the German penetration? It all turns upon that. If Russia could indeed rouse herself now, and offer effective resistance to the German invader, that very fact might give her a national spirit and a national sense of unity which might make her future far more splendid than her past. But I fear that, as this revolution has come in the middle of the War, and unfortunately come upon a war-weary nation, and as those who are responsible for it unhappily treat it almost as an article of their creed that an army should hardly exist and, if it did exist, should hardly be disciplined, as, unfortunately, the country is in that condition, I am unable to see how, without some external help, Russia is going to resist the invasion of this particular malady, this German malady.
Therefore, the question we inevitably ask ourselves, and must ask ourselves is, "Can any of the Allies give to Russia in her extremity that help and that sympathy of which she so sorely stands in need"? It is help and sympathy which the Allies desire to give her, not invasion and plunder, as the hon. Member supposed. I agree that there may be circumstances, there may be prejudices, there may be feelings which render assistance in the East by the only country which can give it in the East a question of difficulty, a question of doubt, a question over which statesmen will hesitate, a question which must be weighed in every balance and looked at from every point of view. But that we the Allies—America, Britain, France, Italy, Japan—should all do that 553 we can at this moment of Russia's fate to help her through the great crisis of her destiny, appears to me to be beyond doubt, and I reject a priori no solution and no suggestion which seems to offer the slightest hope of our doing any good in that direction. I do not think I need say anything more than that. The House would not expect me to talk about the discussions that may go on between the Allies and the Foreign Offices of the different countries. The broad principles which, I think, ought to animate us in any decision, when any decision is taken, I have laid before the House, I hope, with sufficient force and sufficient clarity.
My Noble Friend (Lord R. Cecil) reminds me of one thing. I do not think I can let this Debate finish without repudiating vehemently the suggestion made by the hon. Member who opened it—that Japan is moved by selfish and dishonourable motives. In any course which may have been discussed in Japan itself, by the mouth of her statesmen, or with her Allies, Japan has behaved with perfect loyalty. If Japan gave promises with regard to Russian integrity, or any question connected with Russia, she would keep them, as she has kept all the promises she has made to us and her Allies in connection with this War or with any other great public transaction. Therefore, I draw no distinction from that point of view between Japan and the other countries who make up the great body of belligerents upon' the Entente side. I hope I have said enough, and not too much, to indicate the general problems as they present themselves to this Government and to our Allied Governments, but, at the same time, also to show that we recognise to the full how difficult this problem is, how hard it is to help a nation like Russia, which, partly through its own fault and partly through undeserved misfortunes, is utterly incapable for the moment of helping herself.
The House will feel, I am sure, after having listened to this Debate, and after having heard what I have ventured to lay before them, that the decisions which the Allies may have to come to are decisions not without difficulty, but that the principles upon which those decisions must be come to are neither ungenerous, nor unfair, nor hostile to Russia, nor hostile to the Russian revolution, but, on the contrary, that our 554 one object is to see that Russia should be strong, intact, secure and free. And if these objects can be attained, then, indeed, and then only, will the Russian Revolution bring forth all the fruits which Russia's best friends desire to see.
§ Mr. MORRELL
It is rather significant that on the Third Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill, when we have been engaged in voting the largest sum of money which has ever been voted in this House for the conduct of the War, we should have been engaged all this afternoon in discussing little else—indeed, practically nothing—than the situation in Russia. Everyone must recognise the sympathetic tone of the right hon. Gentleman in regard to Russia. I propose to devote my remarks to the situation which is caused by the practical withdrawal of Russia from active participation in the War. I believe we all recognise that we have arrived at a most critical stage in the conduct of the War, and it is a curious and surprising thing that in the course of these Debates, which have now gone on for a week upon this huge Vote of Credit, no one, since the Leader of the House made his first speech in introducing it, has attempted to make anything like a survey of the situation of the War. I regret very much that my leaders, if I may so call them, on the Front Bench should so far abdicate their proper function as to have left entirely alone, without criticism and without analysis, the speech which was made on behalf of the Government on that occasion. We have had many discussions on points of detail, every sort of question has been raised, but no one has said anything as to the general situation of the War. I hope, therefore, the House will not think it presumptuous if I attempt to survey once more the present position on this the only opportunity we shall have for three or four months.
The Leader of the House made a most interesting and important speech. He spoke with his usual frankness and with that absence of rhetoric and that businesslike tone which I, for one, very much welcome in his speeches as compared with those which are sometimes made by the Prime Minister. I do not think anyone listening to that speech will say that he drew an unduly optimistic picture of the situation. In fact, those who remember the sort of cries which were raised in the Press when this Win-the-War Government came into power fifteen 555 months ago, must be curious to see the tone of the speeches which they now find it necessary to address to this House and the country. The right hon. Gentleman asked us to consider the four main theatres of the War. He took, first of all, the position in Roumania, which he said, rightly enough, was little less than tragic. Everyone must sympathise with the position in which the Roumanians find themselves as the result of the action they have taken in support of the Allies. He said:We can give Roumania our sympathy, but we can give her no help whatever,and he spoke with a certain amount of bitterness, as I thought, of the situation which has arisen in that country. The next theatre of war which he discussed was Turkey, Mesopotamia, and Palestine. He warned us as regards those three countries that the operations could not possibly be decisive. He said, in effect,The expeditions that we have carried out have had very valuable results. They have restored the prestige of this country. They have done something to remedy the blows to oar prestige which were caused by the disaster in the Dardanelles, by the capture of Kat, and by the turst ineffectual expedition to Palestine.But, he added, very significantly,You can never have a decisive result from an expedition that gees so far oversea as those particular expeditions,and he warned us not to expect too much in that direction.
He then turned to the position in Salonika, which, he said, was in some respects the most unsatisfactory of the theatres of war—it is perfectly true that our troops are engaged in no theatre where the position is so unsatisfactory from many points of view as in Salonika.…. The position there is one which might become very dangerous.…. The Central Powers, through their better means of communication, might be able to send a force which it would be difficult, and perhaps impossible, for us adequately to engage.So far as regards Salonika. He then turned to the position in the West, and pointed out how what has happened in Russia has greatly improved the position of our enemies, though it is still difficult to form an estimate of how great that advantage is. At another point he said,What has happened in Russia has completely altered the position on the Western Front.About thirty divisions have come from Russia to the Western Front, and though our troops are confident that they will withstand any attack which may be made against them, he implied that they must remain in a defensive position— 556They have been working with an energy and skill which is beyond all praise to strengthen the defences.…They have used a larger quantity of barbed wire than was used during the whole of the preceding year.He went on to say that practically the whole hope of this country, so far as winning the War is concerned, depends on America, and that as regards the American Forces that again depends on the positon with regard to shipping. He said:The value of the American Forces depends only on the success of operations at Sea, which enable those resoures to be brought here for the use of the Allies.There you have I do not think an unfair summary of the main points in the speech as regards our military position which was made by the Leader of the House a week ago in introducing this Vote. It really means that there is no longer any doubt that this War is becoming, if it has not already become, a war of attrition, the most cruel and devastating form of war which is known to mankind, that there is no longer now any immediate hope of breaking through, and that all the promises which were put forward when this Government was formed have proved to be unfounded, that the "knock-out" blow cannot be delivered, that the Germans, who we were told by the Prime Minister were squealing for peace—I think those were the very words he used soon after he came into power—are no longer in that position, and that all we can look forward to, if the policy of the present Government is to be carried out, is a long, wearisome, and difficult war, with the hope that ultimately the introduction of the forces of America will enable us to get the success which the Government looks forward to. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the country will not shrink from any effort to secure the result which we set out to achieve when the War began. We are entitled to ask, when we have come to this stage in the War, what are the results which the Government is proposing to achieve? How long are we to continue a warfare of this sort? Until the Government is satisfied that we are in a position to get the victory which they say we must have. The right hon. Gentleman defined, in a single phrase, the aims for which we are to continue this terrible and devastating War. He said:They were summed up in a phrase, very often quoted—the destruction of Prussian militarism.'" —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th March, 1918, col. 2153,Vol.103]557 We are, therefore, confronted with this policy: We are now to continue this War until we have achieved an aim which cannot be better defined than that, and which, if it were denned, could never be accomplished. We could never destroy Prussian militarism in the true sense of the word in the way the Leader of the House hoped. Prussian militarism can only be destroyed by the German people themselves. No continuation of this War, with all its horrors and all its slaughters, is going to be of any use whatever if that is the only aim which is to be accomplished. I want to see a very different aim and a very different policy pursued. An hon. Member, speaking earlier in the Debate, told us that it is possible we might have an alternative Government, but there was no alternative policy. I utterly dissent from that view. I believe the people in the country are getting more and more determined that we should find some alternative to the policy that is now being pursued—the mere blind continuation of this War for ends which have never been defined in any satisfactory way. If we ask what are the aims, we have first one speech of the Prime Minister and then another. But to this day our war aims have never been denned in a document binding on all the Allies. There is no wonder, as we contemplate the present position of affairs, as we know the sacrifices which have been made by all classes, as we think of the suffering, as we think of the situation of the country, as we think still more of the secret agreements which have made a profound impression upon the country, that there is war weariness such as the Leader of the House admits, and that there is growing up in the country a feeling which is at present very inadequately represented in this House. I believe it is profoundly untrue to say that there is no alternative policy. The hon. Member for North Norfolk (Mr. Buxton) associated himself, I was glad to hear, with the policy connected with the name of Lord Lansdowne. I have always welcomed the courage, the wisdom, and, as I believe, the true statesmanship and foresight which Lord Lansdowne has shown and is showing at this time. His first letter was described by the Leader of the House as a national disaster. I think the true disaster would be if we could find no other set of statesmen and no policy to pursue different from the statesmen and the policy which now holds the field on that bench and in the country. 558 Lord Lansdowne, as I understand him, laid down two propositions which might be carried out at once, in regard to the policy of this country. In the first place, he asks that our aims should be defined in a way they have never yet been defined, with all the unnecessary accretions cut away. I do not know how far he would accept what I would accept as embodied in the phrase which has become famous, that in the peace settlement no side should demand annexations or penal indemnities, and that we should have adjustments on the lines of self-determination.
What is the second change he advocates? He asks that no possible opportunity should be lost of finding out what is the real mind of our enemies and of entering into negotiations with them. In the Debate on the Address a suggestion was made by the right hon. Member for Dews-bury (Mr. Runciman) that it might be possible to have informal negotiations instead of the present system, by which the statesmen of each country answer each other as if by megaphone from various platforms, and that by these informal conferences we should ascertain whether some adjustment of this terrible business could not be reached. That proposal was welcomed by Count Hertling. Lord Lansdowne has, I think very rightly, expressed himself in favour of some such course. What do the present Government say? They say, in effect, "We cannot listen. It is idle to consider what Count Hertling may say on this or any other point so long as Germany continues to wage war as they are now doing." That is what the Leader of the House said a week ago in this House. He said:All this met culous talk about what Count Hurtling means simply ridiculous. We have to judge the intentions of the Germans and those who are ruling Germany not by what they are saying but by what they are doing.We shall never get to the end of the War in that way. If all suggestions for negotiations are to be cast aside because the Germans are not carrying on the War in a way that we think it is right they should carry it on, we shall never get any-further. I am not saying, and I do not assert for one moment, that it would be possible immediately to make a satisfactory peace. I have never for a moment contemplated that the end of this War would not include complete restoration of Belgium and security for France. I think we are committed by ties of honour to those two propositions and to some restoration of Serbia. Those are funda- 559 mental objects and aims which have to be secured at whatever cost; but I do say that if we can be assured of that, and there seems reason for saying it, it is idle, it is worse than idle, it is criminal on the part of the Government, to say that they will on no account agree to any negotiations because of the manner in which the German rulers are carrying on the War. It is their duty to believe, until it is proved to the contrary, that the German Government who represent a people who are in some ways, as we know, as weary of the War as the people of this country, are sincere, and it is their duty to assume, until it is proved to the contrary, that Count Hertling is sincere in his suggestions. It is in my view utterly criminal as well as foolish to the last degree to reject, as the Government do, all suggestions for bringing by negotiation this War to an end.
I do not want it to be said that I am asking for peace at any price. I do not know whether immediate peace can be obtained, but I do know that at the present the Government, so far as we can judge from the speeches made, are not using every endeavour to see by what means and by what honourable methods this terrible struggle can be brought to an end. We are in the fourth year of the War which has cost, and is costing all the countries of Europe a degree of ruin and misery and suffering which it is utterly impossible for any man living to estimate. I suppose historians in times to come will be able to estimate something of what this War has cost. It is perfectly clear that on the lines on which the Government are proceeding there is no immediate hope of any end of this War, and it is time that the country and this House should insist on such a change of policy and such a change of Government as would make it certain that no means should be omitted which would bring this devastating and terrible War to an end.
I desire to say a few words in regard to the speech of the Foreign Secretary. I think the House listened to that speech with appreciation, and if any criticism can be directed against the ten our of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks it is that he did not go quite far enough. I think we have arrived at one of the most critical stages in the course of this War, and that the steps which the Allies will have to take in connection with 560 the position of affairs in the East will involve one of the most momentous decisions which they have come to during the last three and a half years. It is quite true, as the right hon. Gentleman told us, that if the Germans are allowed to pursue their course of conquest in Russia, unfettered and unhampered, Russia will inevitably be forced back into the old regime, and the Germans, with the state of anarchy in Russia reinforced by German intrigue and German activity, will undoubtedly bring back the old regime under the Czar. I do not think it is possible to realise Germany living alongside any other form of government in Russia. You cannot imagine the Russian Republic living alongside autocracy in Germany. Therefore, the German military party will strain every nerve to produce a state of affairs in Russia under which a return to the old regime is absolutely certain; and for hon. Gentlemen opposite to protest against any intervention on the part of Japan because they apparently wish us to believe that it would result in the restoration of the Czar is a very wrong view to take, and one which is bound to end in disaster. If the Germans are allowed to pursue their policy as they are at present, the Russians will find themselves forced against their will to go back to the system of government which they have abhorred in the past. The Germans undoubtedly have determined to turn the Black Sea into a German lake. They have already reached Odessa, and they are said to be 100 miles West of Petrograd. Their object is to secure control of transportation over the whole of Siberia, and, if possible, secure control over all the foodstuffs and agricultural produce of which, at present there are large amounts stored in Siberia.
Looking at the matter from the point of view of this country and from the point of view of the democracy of this country, I cannot for the life of me understand how hon. Gentlemen can get up and endeavour to suggest motives on the part of the Japanese people for which they have not the slightest foundation in point of fact. After all, Japan, is the greatest democracy in the East. It has a constitutional form of government which is modelled on the Constitution of this country. Hon. Gentlemen may say that there is a military party in Japan, but there is one in every country, and the Japanese are the greatest democracy in the East and the pioneers of democracy in the East. For 561 Members to get up in this House and denounce Japan and suggest suspicion of these people who have been our Allies throughout this War, who, ever since they gained a Constitution for themselves, and threw off the feudalism which had existed in this country, always played the game, and have paid more attention to international law than many European countries, is, to my mind, a very wrong and criminal proceeding. I should have thought that we in this country would have held out our hands to Japan and said to this young democracy, "Come over and help us to redress the balance in the East; now that Russia has succumbed, help us in establishing a new condition of affairs in the world which will make these things impossible in the future." Instead of, that, some hon. Members say "No, they must be watched. We cannot rely on their word." They sow mistrust and suspicion—the very thing we did in Ireland at the beginning of the War when we refused the good offices of certain of the Irish people to raise units for the War.
That is not the right spirit. This House should send a message to the Japanese people and Parliament, calling upon them to support the cause for which the Allies are fighting in this War. What is the use of talking about a League of Nations after the War if we are not going to hold out an invitation to democracies in the Allied countries who are fighting the cause of freedom and justice? I cannot understand the attitude of some hon. Members opposite, who tell us that they are out to smash militarism, to establish a League of Nations, and bring about disarmament, and yet refuse to accept the assistance of a great nation which is becoming more democratic every day and which will have a great say in the future conduct of the world. If this is the sort of spirit that is spreading in this country, we are simply playing into certain other forces which may be operating in Japan and in the East, and we are inviting them to throw their weight into the other side of the scale. I think that the attitude of the Government is to welcome the co-operation and assistance of Japan in every way possible. We know perfectly well that Germany is, in the most insidious way, doing her level best to undermine our influence in Allied countries, and certain temptations in the shape of territory and other material promises are dangled before the Japanese, as they are before other members of the Entente. I sincerely hope that the Gov- 562 ernment will go forward and do everything it can, and that this House will back it up in expressing to the Japanese people that we welcome them as members of the Entente and of the Allied League of Nations which is going to see this thing through, and which is going to see that the aims for which the Allies are fighting are finally victorious in this struggle.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I do not propose to continue the discussion on the subjects which have engaged the attention of the House this afternoon. I will make only one single reference to the speech of my hon. Friend who has just sat down. I do not think that it is really a contribution to the controversy to present an entirely novel and untrue account of the constitutional arrangements of our Eastern Ally. There is no use in saying that a country is a democracy when it is not. As everybody knows, the Japanese Constitution is as nearly as possible a replica of the constitution of the German Empire, and in these circumstances it is wilfully deluding ourselves to talk about democracy in such a connection. I have no desire to deal with the Far Eastern situation. I think that the House is indebted to the Foreign Secretary for his speech to-day, because in regard both to Russia and the East he dealt with the situation in terms of reality, and we too seldom have those subjects dealt with by spokesmen of the Government in terms of reality.
I will now turn to the subject on which I wish to speak. On the 20th of February last, my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Morrell) drew attention to the case of a young officer who had been sentenced to death by a court-martial something like a year ago. I think that that was on the 5th January, 1917. I wish to draw the attention of the War Office to that case, mainly for the purpose of obtaining from the War Office certain reforms in respect of procedure at courts-martial. I do not mean to dwell on the rather harrowing and heartrending aspects of this case. The accused was a young boy twenty-one years of age, who about a month before the alleged offence took place had made an application to his commanding officer for a transfer to sea service—he was in a naval division—because he felt that his nerve was giving way. But his officer dissuaded him on the ground that nearly all men feel at times the effect of the strain, and that he would be all right. His division went into action 563 on the 13th November. On that day this particular officer and another were left in reserve, the commanding officer knowing the young man's condition. But, as it happened, the battalion suffered very severely, and it was found necessary to call up the other two men into the field. What exactly happened is somewhat obscure. We have an account of the incident given by the young man himself to a friend of his in the Army, and in a letter to his father. We do not know the evidence which came before the court-martial. Apparently in the gathering dusk of the November night he did not carry out the order which had been sent to him. He failed, or appeared to have failed, in his duty, and on account of his failure he was arrested and charged. He was put on his trial on Boxing Day, six weeks later, and after the trial, in which the prisoner's friend had very little time for preparation and had been very ill-informed both as to the evidence and as to the prisoner's condition, the prisoner was. found guilty with a strong recommendation to mercy on the part of the Court. The prisoner heard nothing further of the matter—he was still under arrest, though his duties were to look after the letters of the men in the battalion—until the 4th January, when in the evening he was informed that the sentence of the Court was to be carried out, and he was shot at dawn on the following morning.
That in brief is the narrative. The young man was a man who had volunteered in 1915. There was no doubt that he was neither a coward nor a shirker. He was a man many of whose relatives, both on the paternal and the maternal sides, had given distinguished service to their country in the Army and the Navy—mostly in the Navy After the incident—and one important tiling to remember in connection with the incident of which at different times he has given somewhat disconnected accounts, is that they can easily be explained by his nervous condition, if it was such as I think the facts point out—he was found at the time at which the alleged breach of discipline took place by another officer who happened to be his one and only enemy in the Army, and it was largely, if not entirely, upon the evidence of this one man that this boy officer was condemned to death and ultimately shot. But the first point I wish to make in regard to this particular case—and it 564 applies generally to procedures in courts-martial—is that the prisoner does not receive legal advice at the preliminary investigations. Now we are told—I think my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary on various occasions has told us—that the procedure in courts-martial approximates to the procedure in civil trials in this country, that you have in the first place the preliminary investigation in which a summary of evidence is obtained, and that that preliminary investigation is equivalent to the procedure before a magistrate in the case of a criminal trial in civil life. It seems to me that it is very important, especially under the new conditions, where you have a civilian army, an army of men who are merely there for a short time, that you should, as far as possible give to every accused man, particularly where he is accused of a capital charge, the same privileges as are available to the lowest criminal in a civil Court. I do not think that there can be any answer to that contention. I suggest to the War Office that they may well consider that view, and I believe they would have behind them practically the unanimous opinion of everybody in this country if they made a new Regulation whereby it was provided that when a capital charge was made the prisoner should have, in the preliminary proceedings, the advantage of the assistance of the prisoner's friend, or the assistance of a solicitor, just as a man tried on a criminal charge in this country may have the assistance of a solicitor or counsel in the proceedings of the magistrate's Court. We know that where a man is accused he has the privilege of legal assistance, and that very frequently the proceedings come before the magistrate, who, having made the preliminary investigations, himself arrives at a decision, with the result that the case does not proceed further, and the prisoner does not undergo trial at all. I believe that if you had such a practice as that in the Army, you would frequently have the same result.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I think, on the various occasions on which this question has been before the House, that was not put forward by the War Office. It may have been the practice in some cases with which the hon. and gallant Gentleman is familiar, but undoubtedly there is no such right on the part of an accused man in the Army. It may have been the case as a matter of grace, but not as a matter of practice.
§ General McCALMONT
I did not mean to say that the accused person is allowed assistance, but that very often cases are not sent for trial as a result of a review of the summary of evidence.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
That may be true, but the result is far more likely to occur frequently if the accused has the assistance of the prisoner's friend, and if he is not left to his own resources, more especially if he is in a somewhat nervous condition, which is very often the case when one of these offences is charged against a man. That is the first point I put with reference to these serious charges, that there should be allowed to the accused person the services of the prisoner's friend at the preliminary investigation. What happened in this particular case was that the prisoner's friend was only appointed on the night of the 24th December, less than forty-eight hours before the trial began, and further that there was only available to him a summary of the evidence half an hour before he went into the Court to discharge his very onerous and responsible duties. I think it will be seen, therefore, that he had inadequate means and opportunities of dealing with the case. My hon. and gallant Friend below me, who is also a lawyer, is well aware that half-an-hour's perusal of the evidence before going into Court is rather an inadequate preparation for the serious duty to be performed. T think that under no conditions should a trial be carried on in that particular way.
Then we have the point that we have no means of ascertaining the facts of the charge, and that it is now altogether impossible to obtain the minutes of evidence before the court-martial. I know that certain details of this evidences have been published in Mr. Bottomley's paper, and that they have been called into question as being inconsistent with the minutes of evidence. The War Office kept to themselves these minutes of evidence. That is in accordance with the Regulations. The only person to whom the minutes of evidence can be made available is the accused, and in this case the accused is dead, and nobody knows except the officials of the War Office. The court-martial is an open Court, though undoubtedly the bulk of the courts-martial in France are carried out in private; still, any member of the public could have gone into this court-martial, and could have taken a shorthand note of the evidence, which he could have published in any newspaper in this country. But 566 simply because of this piece of red tape, the War Office Regulations, the minutes of evidence are not available to anybody but the accused, who is now dead, and nobody now can ascertain the facts as they were presented to the Court. I think it is a stupid Regulation. In these cases it is important to ascertain the evidence taken at the trial, and the minutes of evidence should be made available to anybody interested in the case. Another point connected with this case is that the verdict was not given at the time. I think it is a great blot upon the procedure of these Courts to hold up the decision, as was done in this case, for example, for a period of ten days. This boy still continued to perform certain duties, and it was not until the 4th January, when he was playing cards with some brother officer, that another officer came to him with the communication that he was to be shot at dawn on the morrow. I submit that the verdict should be given at the time. I think that is very important, for this reason, namely, that the prisoner may have some chance of making an appeal against the sentence.
There is in the War Office Regulations nothing in the nature of an appeal from the military Court. In this case the accused man was condemned to death with a strong recommendation to mercy. Apparently, the sentence was taken from one commanding officer to another commanding officer until finally it reached the Commander-in-Chief. In each instance the papers were submitted, and no effort seems to have been made to ascertain the ground upon which that strong recommendation to mercy was based. It seems to me that in cases of capital sentences the officer or the man in the Army should be entitled to the same right of appeal as the criminal in civil life. I think this is of more importance in view of the fact that cases of shell-shock are now so common in the ranks of the Army. The question of shell-shock has frequently been discussed in this House, and we have had an assurance from the Undersecretary for War that, in cases where the men have suffered from shell-shock and have returned to the Front and have subsequently been on trial and convicted, before anything is done on the conviction, care is taken to investigate the circumstances thoroughly, so as to ascertain whether the nervous condition of the accused could be accounted for. It seems to me that the argument which has led the War Office to take these precautions in respect 567 of men who have already admittedly suffered from shell-shock is equally valid in its application to the man in respect to whom there may be a suspicion that shell-shock has affected him. Undoubtedly in this particular case there was ground for the suspicion that the boy's nerves had given way. There was an application by the accused to the commanding officer on that very ground. The prisoner's friend an this case seems to have been very much impressed by the nervous condition of the boy, because of the difficulty he experienced in obtaining a connected account from him, which prevented the prisoner's friend from putting the accused in the witness-box. I think, where these nervous conditions affect officers and men in our Army, that there is a conclusive case in support of an opportunity being given to appeal in the case of all capital sentences. I know that there are difficulties in the way because of the Regulations, and that legislation would be required, but I submit that legislation of this kind would soon pass through this House. If my hon. Friend were to make himself responsible for such a humane reform in the procedure relating to military law,. he would be adding greatly to the immense services which he has rendered to the War Office and to the Army during his tenure of office. These are the main points I desire to make. This right of appeal is possessed by the meanest and lowest criminal in the country. It is denied to men who have freely and voluntarily joined the forces to fight the battles of their country, and who in. a moment of nervous breakdown may have committed offences against military law. Such a discrimination is indefensible. The right of appeal in cases of court-martial exists in France. Bolo Pasha has that right.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
Yes; he has two appeals, but a soldier in our Army, who may be suffering under the conditions I have described, is not entitled even to one. I think the case I have made out is unanswerable. I have endeavoured to put it in the most moderate terms, and I appeal to my hon. Friend who is about to reply—and I wish there had been a larger House to come to his assistance and to give greater weight to the opinions of the House—to do what he can to obtain a reform which I believe he himself approves find the carrying out of which I think he would desire.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY Of STATE for WAR (Mr. Macpherson)
I think the House will generally agree that my hon. and learned Friend has made a very moderate statement this evening. Hon. Members will realise that the question is a very difficult one to discuss at anytime, and I hope they will also realise that those of us who are charged with Army affairs are not lacking, so far as it is in our power to show it, in human sympathy. Towards the end of the hon. and learned Member's speech he Struck a note which was a proper one to strike in a Debate of this sort. The country very often thinks that it is the military commanders, the military caste, and the War Office who are responsible for these sentences and these punishments. But my hon. and learned Friend pointed out quite clearly, distinctly, and accurately, that these are not the authorities who are responsible, and that they merely administer the law as it is passed in this House every year. Nothing grieves me more than to see men who cannot defend themselves accused by the unenlightened in this country of gross inhumanity and even callousness in administering a law which, year after year, is passed by this very House of Commons for those men to administer. I am not going to enter into controversy over the facts of this case; indeed, I do not think there can be very much controversy about them as stated by my hon. and learned Friend. When this case was first raised in this House I remember well the painful impression created on my own mind when I heard it stated that the prisoner's friend only saw the accused half an hour before the trial. But I have since had what I feel is absolutely conclusive evidence on this point. After the Report of the Debate had appeared in the papers, I received a letter from the prosecutor, written to me from a Home Command, in which he states that on one day before the trial the prisoner's friend was in consultation with the prisoner from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I think the letter said it was on the Sunday before the trial. In any case, I should like to assure the 569 House that the statement as first made here and in the Press was not accurate, and that the prisoner had every opportunity of availing himself of the services of an officer who, I believe, has distinguished legal qualifications. My hon. Friend also made a strong complaint, which appeared likewise in the Press, that no notice was taken of the recommendation to mercy. I want the House to know what was actually the charge against this officer, and I will give a short description of what he did not do. The accused received orders at brigade headquarters to join his battalion, which was at the time heavily engaged in the front line. He did not do so either then or at any time while they were engaged, and he was found in a village behind the line two days later when the battalion was relieved. The House can picture what had been happening in the front line. Every man was needed, every officer was needed not only for his own service but to steady the men, who were being heavily shelled. In these circumstances there was nothing to do but to try this officer on the charges which were preferred against him. The Court found him guilty, and, as is almost invariably the case, recommended him to mercy on account of his youth. My hon. Friend made a strong point on the fact that the verdict was not announced to the accused there and then. I think the House will disagree with that attitude. What actually happens in cases like that is this: A copy of the proceedings having been signed by the President of the Court, with the recommendation to, mercy, they go forward, first, to the Brigadier-General, then to the Corps Commander, next to the Army Commander, then to the Judge Advocate-General, to make sure that there is no legal difficulty, and finally to the Commander-in-Chief. I do not think my hon. and learned Friend would like an accused person to be deprived of any of those revisions. I am quite certain that Army officers and men in the Army would be the first to rise in revolt against the abandonment of that procedure. I have told the House on several occasions what the proceedings are in regard to courts-martial and how they are most carefully followed. No commanding officer wishes to get rid of an officer, and I can assure the House that both Lord French and Sir Douglas Haig are two of the most humane men who ever commanded great forces in the field.
570 The next complaint of my hon, and learned Friend was that there was no counsel at the preliminary investigation, and he went on to say that very often in civil life, on the criminal side, the pre luminary investigation by a stipendiary magistrate results in the charge being dismissed. That is perfectly true. But it is equally true in the case of the soldier. Let me tell the House in a very few words what actually does happen. The accused is taken before his commanding officer and the evidence against him is given by witnesses. Sometimes it is parole evidence and sometimes it is a written statement. The rules of evidence do not apply, however, because the proceedings are non-judicial. If the commanding officer is of opinion that the case is one which does not warrant the accused being discharged or one which he can deal with summarily, he may adjourn the case and have the evidence reduced to writing, with the sole object of forwarding it to a superior authority so that the directions of that authority may be received in regard to it. The superior authority has to form an opinion as to whether or no an offence is disclosed under the Army Act and whether it is possible that the evidence would support such a charge. If the superior authority is satisfied on this point, it is open to him to direct the accused to be tried by court-martial, or, on the other hand, it is open to him to dismiss the case. In this case it was decided by the superior authority that this officer should be tried by court-martial. The court-martial which convicted him and added a recommendation to mercy had, under a Section of the Army Act, unlimited powers of punishment. It could act by sentencing the accused to death. It could have dismissed him from the Service, and if it was not convinced that the offence was a serious one it could have punished the officer in other ways than by inflicting the death sentence. Supposing the court-martial had taken upon itself not to sentence this youth to death but to reprimand him, neither the Field-Marshal nor the Commander-in-Chief could have altered the sentence.
My hon. Friend complains there was no counsel present at the investigation to begin with. I do not think, in view of what I have said, that it is highly important that counsel should be then present. This way of collecting the summary of evidence has for a long time been the established practice in the Army, and I 571 understand it is a practice which meets with general favour among both officers and men. My hon. and learned friend also complained very bitterly that the accused's friend had no copy of the evidence until half an hour before the trial. It is the established practice that the moment a summary of evidence is taken in the way I have described, a copy of it is by order handed to the accused person, and I for one cannot understand why if, as is admitted now, two days before the trial the accused and the accused's friend were in long consultation for four hours on the Sunday, the accused did not produce a copy of that summary of evidence which he was bound in law to have.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I do not know anything about that, but I am almost certain that he had, because I believe it is the law that the accused person must have it. In any case, he must have known the evidence against him. I have been for some time in the same profession as my hon. and learned Friend, and I am quite certain that if I were called in to defend a man charged on this very grave charge I should first of all ask him whether he had the summary of evidence which it was my duty to see.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
Just to clear the matter up, may I say that the statement which has been made to me is this, that the prisoner's friend alleged that the prisoner had not in fact a copy of the summary of evidence, and that he was only able to get it within half an hour of the trial?
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
If my argument is right that cannot be a reason for blaming the War Office. If the accused, having got the summary of evidence, could not in fact produce it to his counsel two days before the trial the War Office and the Commander-in-Chief in France ought not to be blamed. I am told, on what I regard as most reliable authority, that in every case, particularly in the case of sentence of death, the summary of evidence is always handed to the accused person. My hon. and learned Friend's next point was that it was a great mistake that the proceedings of the court-martial could not be produced. As my hon. and gallant Friends who are sitting in front of me 572 know perfectly well, it is the law that the proceedings in a court-martial will only be produced to the accused person, and in my judgment that is a sound rule, because any person might at any time and for the most flimsy reasons ask the Judge Advocate-General, who is the custodian of all proceedings, to hand over the proceedings of a court-martial to him. I think that would be intolerable. I have always taken that line in this House. In the Dublin cases I took that line, and I went further. It is a technical point, and some might call it a lawyer's point, but I said that because he is dead there is no person alive who can compel the Judge Advocate-General to produce the proceedings. I for one, until the law is altered, will not produce the proceedings, of this case.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
If you will only allow the accused person to know within eight hours of his death that the result of the trial is death, you practically eliminate the chance of anybody knowing the ground on which he has been condemned to death?
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
Not at all, because the grounds on which he is condemned to death are published in Orders, a copy of which I have here. Part of the punishment, in the interests of discipline, is the publication of the reason why a man has been charged.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
The accused person who is not sentenced to death has the right to get the evidence, but as the law stands I think I have accurately stated it. It is for this House, if 1 hey think fit, if they think that the procedure at the present time, that the rules of procedure—and not the Regulations, as my hon. and learned Friend said—that the rules of procedure, or the Army Act itself, upon which those rules are based, are wrong—it is for the House to create the alteration which they think is desirable either in the interests of justice or of humanity. But so long as the Army Act stands as it does, and so long as the rules of procedure flow from that Army Act, the military authorities at home and abroad have only one thing to do, to use them and administer them to the best of their ability and capacity. My hon. and learned Friend said that in this case there was grave doubt as to whether the boy was not suffering from shell-shock. I personally have a great deal of sympathy with the men who 573 have that very serious complaint, and so, I know, has the House. In my judgment it is an exploded idea that shell-shock merely means cold feet, because one has come across case after case of the most gallant fellows who ever drew breath whose nerves are so badly shattered that only half of their whole bodily strength and mental vigour remains. I have been interesting myself in this question, and I should like to read, if I may, a portion of a letter from the Field-Marshal Commanding-in-Chief which bears on this point that my hon. and learned Friend very properly made—that extreme caution should be shown, when there is any question at all or any suspicion at all of shell-shock in a case, that he should be medically examined. This is the quotation from the Field-Marshal's letter:When a wan has been sentenced to death, if at any time any doubt, has been raised as to. his responsibility fur his actions, or if the suggestion has been advance I that he has suffered from neurasthenia or shell-shock, orders are issued for him to be examined by a medical board which expresses an opinion as to his sanity, and as to whether he should he d responsible for his actions. One of the members of this board is always a medical officer of neurological experience. The sentence of death is not tarried out in the case of such a man unless the medical board express s the positive opinion that he is to be held responsible for his actions.I do ask the House to believe that so far as the shell-shock cases are concerned, so far as it is humanly possible to be careful of them, the military authorities in France are careful, and I would say with regard to the special case which has been raised that the military commanders in France were only doing their duty by administering an Act which this House has presented the military authorities with; that this trial was carefully and I know humanely conducted, and that if unfortunately—and it is unfortunate—any officer should suffer the last penalty, I would ask the House further to believe that he suffers it having been carefully and humanely tried by the only laws which the military had provided for them, laws humanely administered and justly given effect to.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
There are several subjects I wish to raise, some of which I have briefly discussed with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, namely, what practical results have we obtained from the money spent by the Committee on Oil Production? Up to the present time I have received no satisfactory answer to my question. Of course, I am aware that so far as the Scottish shale field is con- 574 cerned there is a considerable increase in the amount of oil produced, but so far as exploiting the oil-bearing-resources of other parts of the country is concerned, I have been able to obtain little or no information as to any practical results accruing from the money we have been spending through the Committee on Oil Production. I consider that the question of exploiting the oil resources of this country is one of vital importance to our people under present conditions—first, from the point of view of our being able to keep as large a portion as possible of the money we require to spend for this very necessary commodity inside the country; and, secondly, so that we might by exploiting to the fullest extent the resources of this country save the shipping for other purposes than that of carrying oil. I understand that there is a considerable staff engaged in this Department, that they have been writing numerous letters, supplying numerous Reports, and writing numerous articles, but, as far as I know, up to the present very little practical result has followed from their activities. I am not sure if the Government have appointed the right type of men for this very important duty, and I should be glad if we could have some assurance from the right hon. Gentleman who is to reply that the Government are alive to the importance of the question. There are other people besides myself who are interested in this question. On the 5th of the present month a letter appeared in the "Times" from Lord Glenconner, drawing the attention of the country to the matter. In that letter his lordship goes on to complain about the delay that has occurred in attempting to exploit the oil-bearing resources of this country. He points out that it is more than eight months since the Government were informed officially of the existence of oil in commercial quantities in these islands, and that offers had been made by certain-parties to exploit at their own expense the oil-bearing capacity of the country.
I understand that the Government have also been informed from another source that there are millions of tons of cannel coal and another kind, and clay or shale lying in colliery dumps in this country, and which, if handled by practical men, could be utilised to obtain oil. In this instance also the parties who brought the matter under the notice of the Government were prepared, at their own expense, to erect plant for the purpose of 575 extracting oil from the minerals lying on those pit dumps, which the coal owners of the country would be quite happy to see removed. But I understand that in this, as in the other instance, the efforts of the party in question have been turned down, and there has been no practical issue from the proposal made to the Government. I understand that some seven or eight months ago the Government sent an official to interview certain of the colliery owners of this country, and to inform them that preparations were being made to erect retorts which would produce before the end of December last 50,000,000 gallons of oil, and that by the end of 1918 the production would rise to 100,000,000. But the coal owners were so little impressed by the party that was sent down to discuss the matter that they decided amongst themselves that the Government could not be serious in the proposal. I am convinced that there is a considerable supply of oil obtainable in this country from both of these sources. I do not pretend to have any technical knowledge, but as a mining man with considerable practical experience I am convinced that there is a source of supply to be obtained from both sources. With regard to the two offers, first, that of £500,000 to test the oil-bearing resources of the country, and the other to erect retorts for the purpose of extracting oil from the minerals lying on the colliery dumps, I do not think that those matters should be left to private exploitation. The production of oil, apart from the little quantity that is now obtained in the Scottish shale field, is a new industry as far as this country is concerned, and I am strongly of opinion that it is an industry that should be retained in the hands of the people of this country. Our financial position for years to come will be such that it will be our duty to take advantage of every source of possible income. To my mind this is a source of income which is well worth the serious consideration of the Government. Looked at from our present position, the question is a matter of vital importance, and in view of our financial position in the future it is a source of supply deserving of attention. I think it ought to be the duty of the Government to find the necessary money "to exploit the oil resources of the country, and so secure for the State whatever money can be made out of the venture.
576 There is another matter to which I desire to refer. I understand that the Government are giving serious consideration to the proposal that has been put forward by the British Aluminium Company to still further use the water-power of the country, and I understand that a proposal will shortly be before this House in the form of a private Bill to bridle the waters of the Spey for the company's purposes. The subject is one of much interest in the Lochaber district. The crofters and others living in that part of the country are very seriously alarmed at the prospect of their district being robbed of water-power, and consequently the future development of that part of the country hampered and hindered. There, again, I am strongly of the opinion that the Government ought to exploit the water-power of this country themselves. If the Aluminium Company can do so, I am strongly of the opinion that the Government can equally do it. Not only is that my personal opinion, but I may inform the right hon. Gentleman that it is the almost universal opinion of labour in this country that any of the natural resources of the country which are to be exploited in the future should be exploited for the benefit of the whole people and not for the benefit of private companies. I hope that these two questions are going to get the serious consideration of the Government, both from the point of view of at the earliest possible moment doing their best to test the natural resources of this country so far as oil is concerned and getting some practical results from the money that has been spent on this Committee, as I understand a considerable amount of money has already been spent; and that they will also seriously consider the suggestion which I have put forward that these natural resources of the country should no longer be handed over for private profit, but should be used for the benefit of the whole people.
§ Sir ARTHUR STEEL - MAITLAND (Department of Overseas Trade)
I can only say, in reply to the point which the hon. Member has raised, that I am myself entirely in sympathy with the principle which he has enunciated, which is that of utilising the resources of the country for our own ends as much as possible, and, if I am very brief on the; subject of oil, I hope he will not think I am in any way discourteous, because if I had known a 577 little earlier he was going to raise the point I would have secured the attendance here of those who have been dealing with it more immediately than I have. At the same time, it is a point of very serious importance, which I will most certainly bring to the notice of those who have the more immediate management of the subject.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
It belongs immediately to the Ministry of Munitions, but is being dealt with by a Special Committee. The point the hon. Member has raised is as to the possibility of obtaining a larger supply of oil in this country, and of utilising some of the spoil heaps which are at present accumulating to a very great extent. Of course, it is an exceedingly important question. It is important from two points of view. First of all, the possession of the oil is quite vital in this country; and, secondly, if we are not able to produce it ourselves, it means that amount of shipbuilding capacity being devoted to vessels which can bring it here. The speech of the hon. Member really raises two points. First of all, there is the question, after the War, of utilising, through means of better retorts, of a good deal of the substances now thrown on dumps and spoil heaps which do contain an amount of oil.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
I put seriously to the hon. Member the point that already the Government have had the offer of retorts that are capable of utilising the material lying on the heaps.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
If so, I can promise the hon. Member that I will get the matter gone into very seriously indeed, because I can assure him that I, for my part, fully realise the importance of it. There is another consideration which I think ought to be borne in mind. I should think myself it would be wiser at this moment to treat a larger amount of fresh shale than to separate from the spoil heaps, because the percentage to be got from fresh shale is infinitely higher, And, at the same time, one gets a large amount of quite valuable by-products—sulphate of ammonia and others—which are of very great value at the moment, and which have been almost entirely recovered before the exhausted shale is put upon the spoil heaps. Therefore, speaking subject to further consideration, I should imagine, from the point of 578 view of increasing supplies and economising tonnage, and if the retortage is available, that the wiser plan might be to use as much fresh shale as possible; but I can really promise the hon. Gentleman quite seriously that I will have the matter brought before the Committee. I could have wished I had the other day a full answer to give my hon. Friend on the subject, but, if he will trust me so fax, I promise him that it will be treated quite seriously, and every proper consideration given to it.
§ The SECRETARY for SCOTLAND (Mr. Munro)
I am obliged to my hon. Friend for having given me notice a little time ago that he would raise the question with regard to the Aluminium Company, but, like my hon. Friend beside me, I should have liked a little more notice, if possible, in order to obtain the full facts in regard to the matter. But I think I can tell him exactly how the situation stands. The proposal of the company originated, as all similar Scottish proposals must originate, by way of a Provisional Order. The Chairmen of the two Houses before whom the matter in due course came, decided in respect of the principles involved—and there were other considerations I think—that this proposal should proceed, not by way of Provisional Order before a Provisional Order Committee in Scotland, but should proceed by way of private Bill in both Houses. My hon. Friend may find that that has a considerable advantage, both to him and to those who think with him, because, while I do not express any final view on the subject—and it is not for me to do so—I should have thought there might be some doubt as to whether he and his friends would be held to have a locus to oppose the proposal if proceeded with by way of Provisional Order, whereas there can be no doubt at all that he will have just as full opportunities in this House as are afforded to any Member who desires to oppose a private Bill with regard to the discussion on this particular measure. The decision having been arrived at that the matter should proceed by way of private Bill, the whole control and responsibility passed out of my hands, and accordingly my hon. Friend must not seek to attach to me responsibility in the matter. I have no control over private Bills, nor have I any responsibility for this one. If the Bill is opposed, then I apprehend it will go to a Committee in both Houses, and the very 579 fullest opportunity will thus be afforded, as I say, to any person who desires to oppose the measure to do so. That is all on the assumption that the Bill will proceed. It is not for me to say whether it will or will not, or whether it should or should not, but, on the assumption, which was the basis of my hon. Friend's speech, that this proposal is to go forward, I want to satisfy him by these few observations that the strenuous opposition which he promises to the measure will have full opportunity for ventilation in the ordinary way on the floor of the House.
§ Mr. CURRIE
The hon. Gentleman will remember that some time ago, when the question of getting petroleum was raised, a difficulty arose because part of the Government's proposal was in the nature of establishing a new system of royalties, and some of us felt that that in itself was rather unfortunate, if, indeed, justifiable at all. I should have been glad if my hon. Friend had given an assurance that, whatever negotiations had been pending at the present moment, the Department had departed from the idea of establishing royalties of that kind. I recognise the hon. Gentleman may not be quite in a position to give an answer, because he indicated that the matter was under consideration elsewhere, but I should like to repeat that, in my opinion, the Government would be acting unwisely if they were proceeding towards the establishment of a new set of royalties of this kind, and I think the hon. Gentleman would make his way assured if he were able to say clearly that, whatever the negotiations are, they do not include an element of that kind. I am sure, also, that in many quarters there is a feeling of uneasiness in case the Government may be forced into delay by reason of negotiations concerning these royalties. I hope that is not the case, and on that point I should be glad if my right hon. Friend could give an assurance.
§ Mr. NEEDHAM
I should just like to say that I strongly support what has been said by the hon. Member for West Fife in regard to oil derived from shale, and I should like to thank the right hon. Gentleman for the promise he has made that the whole question will be duly reported to proper quarters. I take it that promise to report also includes the suggestion made from these benches that we regard the matter as very urgent, and- 580 that there is a feeling of uneasiness in the minds of a good many members of the public in regard to what they consider is the inaction of the Government with, respect to oil production in this country. I further welcome very cordially the right hon. Gentleman's statement on that point.
§ Mr. LYNCH
On an occasion so soon after the passing away of a great figure in Irish politics, that of Mr. John Redmond, I desire to begin my remarks to-night with the expression of a desire for reconciliation; reconciliation as far as possible-between Irish Nationalists. Even in expressing that sentiment I have a feeling that I may be speaking in vain, and that this hope may be unacceptable to those to whom it is addressed. Nevertheless, I will say this: I would like to see united to the great experience and wonderful energy and lifelong devotion of the present Leader of the Irish party, the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), and to the popular qualities of the hon. Member for Belfast (Mr. Devlin), so endowed with ability to inspire enthusiasm and give an impetus to a great cause I would like to see united to those qualities the knowledge and fervour of the Leader of the smaller Irish party (Mr. William O'Brien), and the wit and wisdom of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. T. Healy). I will go still further. I would like to see reconciled in one general national movement the Sinn Feiners themselves. I would like to see kept within the limits of a constitutional movement the romantic, and I will say the heroic, figure of Mr. de Valera, because although I do not accept to the full his doctrines, I recognise that such a man is, after all, of the lineage of Irish heroes from Sarsfield to-Wolfe Tone, to Robert Emmet, to Thomas Francis Meagher; and I believe his followers have shown in the highest degree, first and foremost, the quality of undying patriotism which has always characterised Irishmen. So much for the question of reconciliation amongst Irish Nationalists. But I would go still further. What I would aim at eventually is a complete and cordial reconciliation between Ireland and this country, laying it down, however, as essential that the reconciliation should only take place on a basis entirely honourable to Ireland, completely concordant with aspirations of Irish patriotism.
Having spoken thus, I will proceed to one or two matters of great interest in 581 Ireland itself, and which I have no doubt seriously occupy the mind of my right hon. Friend opposite, namely, the unrest in the country. In county Clare we hear there is unrest of various degrees, that there is cattle-driving, raiding for arms; he himself asserts that there is a criminal conspiracy to defeat the law in the county. I have heard county Clare spoken about recently in another place as if it were a county where crime were rampant and all sorts of lawlessness were encouraged, and I could hardly recognise in those terms that county Clare, with which I am so familiar, and those good people so fundamentally honest, so truly law-abiding in the best sense, so kindly in their nature. I would venture to say that an entirely false impression has been given of the country and of the state of affairs in county Clare. Even amidst the sensational occurrences of cattle-driving, or raiding for arms, I venture to say that any citizen of this country could go to any part of Clare unarmed, and find himself not only unmolested but received with kindness and hospitality such as is universal in that county. No man is in any danger there—no stranger, no native of the country. No property is in any danger there, except in certain cases which I will touch upon. There has been raiding for arms, but I notice that the responsible leaders of the Sinn Fein party have lately discouraged those proceedings. There have been instances of cattle-raiding and of entering upon grass lands. I think I am likely to rouse the ire of my right hon. Friend, as I did the other day, yet I will repeat what I then said, and I will maintain it, that for these occurrences the original fault is not with the people of Ireland but with the Government.
The state of affairs is this, that not only Ireland but this country also is face to face with a grave shortage of food. In this country, and particularly now as we are dealing with Ireland, there are thousands of acres of rich arable land which would supply an abundance of food of which the country has not now the advantage. Contiguous to these tracts of fine arable land are numbers of uneconomic holdings, that is to say, of poor tenant farmers, hard-working men, men capable of bringing up honourably large families upon a tract of land which would be thought very inadequate either in this country or in Wales. They are men who farm fifteen or ten, or even a less acreage, and there are few 582 countries which show such good results as they produce with their resources. These men, in a time of stress, where food is becoming scarce, where the pinch of poverty is felt, and who are willing and able to work, see lying adjacent to them large tracts of land available for their labour, and yet they find that that land is prohibited to them, locked up, even in opposition to a law expressly passed for their benefit, namely, the Land Act of 1909, and locked up because of the policy of this country, which is still dictated largely by that small class of landlords in Ireland whose career has been disastrous and even disreputable, and yet who cling now so tenaciously to the remnant of their power. The proper manner of approaching this problem is not high and lofty indignation against what is called the crime of these people, but rather the intention to look at the root of the unrest and try to remove it. It is unnecessary to introduce new legislation because legislation has already been passed; it has been purposely defeated with the connivance £ Dublin Castle, and that bad faith is one of the main causes of the unrest, and one which goes far to justify the action of these people. The phrase "criminal conspiracy" has often been heard in Irish history. It was heard at the time of the Parnell movement, it was used as a deterrent, and I would like to ask, Would the right hon. Gentleman care to undo any one of the Acts which have been passed in this Parliament due to the pressure of the Parnell movement, but which were opposed so vehemently by the use of the opprobious term of "criminal conspiracy"? I venture to say that the right hon. Gentleman would look upon those Acts which were the product of the Parnell regime as beneficial, not only to Ireland, but to this country; they have, indeed, been a sort of cement binding the two countries together, as far as mutual benefit is concerned.
I do not know whether it is in order to refer to what has passed in another place. I think it is rather out of order to refer to the Debates in the Lords, so all I will say in general terms is that the prevailing tone amongst those who are still vehemently opposed to Home Rule is that Ireland is a place where unrest is continuous, where that unrest is totally unjustified, and where the one remedy for that unrest is considered to be violent and brutal repression, with no 583 consideration for the sentiment of the people or for the causes of that unrest. Recently I was indignant at hearing such expressions put forward with a great show of authority. It was asserted that what was necessary for Ireland was respect for the law, good faith in maintaining the law, and particularly regard for great Imperial obligations. The Government itself has been showing disrespect for the law by failing to carry out that Act, which was expressly passed by this House for dealing with a state of affairs as I have described. Instead of meeting the case face to face, the Government have allowed dilatory methods to prevail for years and years, thus discouraging the men who wish to work, turning them at times from hopeful, active men to broken-down, idle men, waiting for opportunities which again and again have been delayed. Consequently, the difficulties I have mentioned have been in great part due to the action of the Government.
When we come to the consideration of good faith, we also find that the Government is mainly to blame. The people of Ireland were defeated in their hopes of the Home Rule Act. Most of my political life in this House has been spent in an endeavour to forward an Act brought in by the Government itself after due deliberation. We supported the. Liberal Government for years—in fact, we kept them in office—and we supported them at great sacrifices, even to certain interests in Ireland, being content to obtain compensation in the greater hope of Irish autonomy, and yet, at the end, when the moment came to complete the other side of the contract, then we began to find this bad faith, and this evasion, this refusal to carry out the contract, and that on the part of two of the principal members of the present Government. It is my own opinion that the bad faith was in their minds months, if not years, before it was actually revealed. The Irish people remember that, and that has been one cause of that state of affairs which has been so disastrous, not only to this country, but to the cause of the Allies, which has prevailed, not only in Ireland, but in all countries where Irish sentiment exists—in Australia and in America. There has been a Nemesis in this matter, and that has been the cause of the delay of the entrance of the United States into the War, and per- 584 haps future history will record that this year's delay was of vital importance. Yet, in spite of all this experience, we find amongst men of great authority, men whose counsel prevails with this country, only one manner of viewing the Irish question here. They say that Ireland is a nation of rebels or disturbers of the peace, and there is only one remedy, that of coercion. The time has passed for that, not only because it is a wicked doctrine itself, but because the power of this country to enforce that kind of doctrine has also passed away. This country has now merged its forces with the other great nations who are now associated with us, and such sentiments as those are repugnant to their national ideal. Not only that, but such a policy will be ineffectual. Irishmen may have many faults, but at any rate they can fight. I put that quality very high even as a great national characteristic, because if Irishmen had been unable to fight generations and centuries ago they would have been trampled out under the brutal heel of this country. But they can fight, and they are hopeful, and they believe in the end that they will win and realise their century-long aspirations.
I will try to set out simply a possible solution of this difficulty. I would advise the Government not to tinker with that worn-out machine, Dublin Castle. I would like to see Dublin Castle effaced, or, if preserved at all, kept as a kind of national museum which would admonish all future Governments of Ireland of the blunders which have been so disastrous to the interests of this country during the last century. I would also warn the Government against any designs, that they may harbour of increasing the power of the Lord Lieutenant. The Lord Lieutenant is the simulacrum of a sham, or, at all events, of a decaying system. The Government should beware of the notion that they can settle the Irish question simply by tinkering up or ameliorating here and there the present system. The time has come for large thoughts and great ideals. That has been borne in upon us again and again by the external circumstances which have brought this country to its present condition. Let the great minds that are in the Government rise out of the mere rut of the petty passions and politics of the day, look far ahead, see what is coming, recognise the value of democracy, recognise to the full the desire of nationals for their own 585 nationhood—a desire certainly as vivid in Ireland as in any country in the world—and having inspired themselves by these notions strike out once and for all a bold scheme of autonomy, one so bold and so full that it will catch the imagination even of Ulster itself and yet safeguard the interests of Ulster on the two points on which Ulster desires to be safeguarded, namely, the religious question and the financial question. I would say, although it has been the dream of my political life to help to win liberty for Ireland, yet if I thought at this stage that the granting of the most glorious form of autonomy would mean, I will not say the persecution of any man in Ulster, but the disparagement of any Protestant North or South on account of his religion, I would, even now, turn against Home Rule and fight vehemently against its realisation as ever I have fought for its acceptance. I believe that represents the mind of most Nationalists, so that the religious question is not an insoluble question. If there be any grounds for the fears or apprehensions of any Ulsterman they ought to be safeguarded to the full.
With regard to the financial question, it is quite possible that prosperity would flow into Ireland when once this political turmoil was settled and that all parts of Ireland would reap advantage. The Government then could be carried on quite well without weighing unfairly upon Ulster on the financial side. It would be quite possible to make provisions so that there should be no undue taxation of Ulster: in fact, we could formulate a scheme on the financial side that would be acceptable to Ulstermen. Having removed those two main causes of difference between the North and South, the demand for autonomy would become a national demand, and it should be carried up to the point at least of giving Dominion Government, at the same time leaving the door open to the future political development both of this country and of Ireland.
This War will have marked the end of the old regime. Arising out of the experiences of this War, we see two things. First of all, the desire becoming more and more intense for complete national expression, or what has been called "self-determination." That is excellent and that is undefeatable. On the other hand, we see, equally so as the result of the experience of this War. that no one nation, 586 not even a great nation, can stand alone. Therefore, we have a development towards liberty on the one hand, and we have a development towards federation on the other. Yet those two lines of development are not incompatible, and it is those principles that we must apply to Ireland. I do not desire that Ireland should finally break away and become isolated from all this great ring of Condominiums and at the same time I wish to see the aspiration for liberty among Irishmen gratified to the full. Those two principles are not incompatible, and, if a solution be found on those lines, it will be not only beneficial to Ireland, but will also redound not merely to the credit but ultimately to the strength also of this country.
§ The CHIEF SECRETARY for IRE-LAND (Mr. Duke)
It would be impossible that a man standing in my place should complain in any way of the tone and temper of the speech that has just been delivered. I should be the last man to complain. Urgent questions which touch causes of the deepest feeling among all Irishmen, and which have been the subject of controversy and age-long division, are being handled to-day in Ireland, and I confess that many of the phenomena to which my hon. Friend referred do not alarm me as they alarm some people who have not been so close to the facts in recent times. It has been said that there is nothing abnormal in many of the incidents with which we have had to deal in Ireland. If that were so, it would be easy to discuss in a whole-somer atmosphere some of the questions to which the speech we have just heard has been mainly directed. On many of those questions few Nationalist Members, I believe, and certainly few English Members who desire a settlement of the Irish question, will find ground for controversy with the hon. Member. There is a note of universal assent in the appreciation of the services of the late hon. and learned Member (Mr. John Redmond), who for so many years illustrated the genius of Ireland and Irishmen's indomitable courage and devotion to the causes which they have at heart, and who sat in the seat immediately behind the hon. Member. We are all united to-day in the expression of our admiration of Mr. John Redmond. I only wish myself that the appreciation which his services command to-day had been a little more evident in some quarters when it would have been more useful both to England 587 and to Ireland that there should have been that recognition. Reference was made to the earnest desire there is for reconciliation among Irishmen North and South, among Irishmen in the various sections of Irish opinion, and between Irishmen and the people of this Island. So far as regards the Empire at large, I gathered from the speech we have heard that Irishmen are content with their position and their neighbours are content with theirs.
§ Mr. DUKE
By whatever name he can describe it that will commend itself to the affections of the great mass of people than the name of the British Empire commands, I am with him in extending that affectionate regard. The great mass of the citizens of the Condominium in which we live value the thing, and do not concern themselves much with the name. I am not going to enlarge upon these topics. I share the desire for the reconciliation of all the citizens of Ireland and of all the other parts of what I must still call, for want of a better name, the Empire, and 1 hope a solution may be found for the differences which have divided Irishmen, and have hindered Ireland and the Irish people from taking the part which their natural genius qualifies them to take in our common affairs. I am sure every reasonable man in this country desires that a solution should be supplied. I do not think there is any Irishman in this House who accuses me of any lack of interest in this matter or of putting any obstacle in the way of the peace of Ireland, the prosperity of Ireland, the contentment of Ireland, or the honour of the Irish people. It has always seemed to me that the Chief Secretary is a trustee of power for the people of Ireland as well as for all the other subjects of the Crown, and that his business is to reconcile those great powers which the State exercises, not only with all the interests in Ireland, which are regarded 588 with natural affection and jealous regard, but with all the interests of those with whose fate and fortunes he is concerned.
Reference was made to disorders which had taken place in various parts of Ireland, in particular, in county dare. I do not think that even there there was a note of severe reproach in respect of anything I have done. I gather that there was a dissentient listener where it was most prominent on a recent occasion. What has been most prevalent has been the note of censure of the Administration for lack of that coercive vigour which in some quarters was supposed to be a remedy particularly applicable to Irish distresses. I do not take the view that you can make valuable political changes by force of arms. I do not think you can cure Bolshevism by Czarism. I believe that the remedies for disorders such as have occurred in Ireland must be of a constitutional kind. Although my hon. Friend pays a testimony to the habitual good temper and good feeling of his constituents, and to the habits of order which prevail in many parts of Ireland, I must state, in answer to the speech the House has just heard, just a few facts upon the particular matters to which he has referred. I will deal with county Sligo, Roscommon, parts of Galway, parts of Kerry, and parts of Tipperary, but especially county Sligo. In county Sligo there are many grazing farms. There is the usual variety of population, there is a large agricultural community, which ordinarily is free from crime, good tempered, and observant of the common restrictions of social life. But in county Sligo and in county Roscommon, and in other areas to which reference has been made, during the latter part of January, and then conspicuously during the early part of February, culminating towards the middle of February, the ordinary state of things was reversed, and, following upon the advice of mischief-makers. of people who did not desire tillage, and did not desire land distribution, so far as I can judge, but who desired disorder and were willing to face anarchy and upset the Government, a large number of the population of Sligo and great bodies of men in Roscommon and elsewhere were found entering by force of arms upon the possessions of some of their neighbours, whose mode of conducting their affairs and managing their property did not commend itself to them and dispossessing those neighbours, thus upsetting the 589 canons of conduct in every civilised society—possessing themselves of property which did not belong to them and holding it against all comers. By the seizure of arms, by the driving of cattle, and by disturbances of the most various kind which were calculated to occupy the attention of the police in every part of a large area and to obstruct them, they prevented anything like the maintenance of common order.
When you find that state of things systematically brought about in the widespread Western Counties of Ireland and find populations which ordinarily are law-abiding converted into systematic breakers of the law, you have no alternative but to vindicate the authority of the law and to make it clear to all comers that in the last resort there is power enough in those who are responsible for the Administration and for the safety of life and property in Ireland to secure that property and life shall be safe and that law-breakers shall be punished. That is what is being done in Sligo and Roscommon and in some other districts. While there was nothing to render it impossible to give protection to life and property these manifestations could be dealt with as mere matters of police. When it became impossible to deal with them as matters of police, when the disorder was on such a scale that the efforts of the police were ineffective to afford any kind of protection to those who were assailed, stronger measures had to be taken. I cannot conceive that any man who has a regard to the future well-being of Ireland, to the character of Ireland as a law-abiding country, or to any of the permanent interests to which attention has been called in the hon. Member's speech, could complain of any action which has been taken on behalf of the Government. On the other hand, I am not surprised that those who are not familiar with the true character of what has been going on, of the nature of the conspiracy, and of the want of certainty as to the mode by which it could be effectually controlled, could suppose that the Government had been supine in dealing with the matter until it came to a head and was capable of being dealt with not only promptly, but, I hope, effectually.
It is quite true that under ordinary circumstances Clare has the reputation—and, I believe, the deserved reputation—of being a county where one can spend as pleasant a time as anywhere else in these Islands among hospitable and pleasant people. But the picture which the 590 hon. Member drew of the county of Clare from his recollection of it on many visits, not of the most recent date, has not been a true picture during the last two or three weeks. It has not been true that life and property were safe and that a man might move about in absolute security. I will tell the House the kind of thing which came to a culminating point in Clare two or three weeks ago. It was not merely that the unpopular owners of the class of land to which reference has been made found themselves in a position in which it was almost impossible for them to carry on their business—the lawful occupation of their lands. It was not merely that there were scattered and isolated instances of disorder. Means have been taken by emissaries who have perambulated Clare from one limit to the other to raise in the minds of the young men of the county the belief that they would serve the cause of their country if they would overturn the British Administration, and, not with the view to any such amelioration of their condition as has been mentioned, but obviously with a view to render the Administration impossible, you had a course of organised crime, you had terrorism practised upon people living in remote places by midnight visits of masked parties to their houses for the purpose of making search for arms. It has been impossible to prevent it by any vigilance of the police, and has only been defeated when the natural courage of the victim came to his aid and there was resistance offered, which was of a sufficient defence in some cases to drive off the assailants, who were not prepared to follow up the attacks they had made as desperately as in some other cases they have been followed up. But in the majority of cases terrorism prevailed, arms were given up, no one appeared to disclose, if the names were known, who were the aggressors, and there was a sense of insecurity created by offences of that kind where it was impossible for the police to bring the offenders to justice. On the hillsides, or in remote places, sometimes in the presence of a little police patrol of two or three men, hundreds of young fellows were brought out to drill and parade, not for any purpose of national defence, not for any purpose of benefiting Clare, or for the present benefit of Ireland, but for the avowed purpose of rendering government impossible, not by the persuasive means to which the hon. Member referred, but by force of arms when the occasion arose.
591 Complaint is made that the small parties of police could not arrest the hundreds of men who were drilling on the hillsides of Ireland. It is impossible for two or three men to compass the arrest of scores, or to deal with hundreds. To make an attack upon them would have been to invite misfortune. They did take the names of the offenders, and several of the ringleaders have subsequently been dealt with, but a state of disorder was created by them purposely, and following up the creation of that state of disorder the young men who had been taken out to the hillsides, where they could drill without any prospect of being immediately arrested or suffering any immediate damage, were made the agents in attacks upon farms and properties held according to law in various parts of the county. Cattle were driven, lands were forcibly occupied, the owners were put out of them for the time being, and the police were defied. That went on for ten days or a fortnight, and during that time a state of friction naturally arose between the police and law-breakers of that kind, and about the middle of February a state of things had been brought about, as part of the combination which was being used for the purpose of making government in Clare impossible, in which it was quite evident that the police force in that county—absolutely exiguous, a tiny force, having regard to the area of the county, the scattered centres of population, and the geography of the county—was in danger of being overwhelmed, and it was intended to overwhelm it as part of the conspiracy which was being pursued. When it became apparent that police measures were no longer proper measures for securing common decent order in Clare, for securing the safety of life and some sort of regard for the law relating to property, means were taken which I do not doubt will restore order in Clare, although they will not help to solve any of the questions to which the hon. Member has referred. It was thought, apparently, that if you drive cattle with sufficient disregard for life and decency, if you could disturb scattered landowners, and if you could terrify the people on the hillsides of Clare and get half a dozen or a score of fowling-pieces or weapons of one sort or another that that was a means of overturning the authority of the British Government. Anything more ridiculous is 592 not to be conceived. But it was a mean of making life impossible in Clare for-decent people, and when it had reached a point at which it was quite apparent that: police protection was insufficient for giving the men of Clare, the law-abiding people of Clare, that to which they were entitled, other means were resorted to, and those means are now in operation.
Although it is exceedingly inconvenient for the great mass of the people in Clare to interfere with the operations of life and to make it apparent that it is a far better thing that men should be restrained by regard for justice and honesty and fair dealing than that they should be restrained by police or other action, yet, where the ordinary self-restraint of the population has been broken down and when the authority of the law does not find the local support which it usually finds in a civilised country, and which it finds to-day in the greater part of Ireland, however much you may regret it, the time comes, be it soon or be it late, when control must be taken and must be taken with such certainty and with such force that an end is put to the disorder. The time came in the county of Clare, and when I am asked when was the time at which it was imperative that action should be taken, I say that in my judgment that time came when it was known that action could no longer be safely delayed. That period was reached something like three weeks ago, and I am happy to say that there is a very good prospect of the return of the people of Clare, under the better advice which they have recently been receiving, to the reasonable habits with which their Parliamentary representative has credited them. Xo one will be better pleased than I shall when there is evidence from within the county of Clare, and the sober citizens in the county of Clare, that there is no need for exceptional restraint in that county. When that evidence is. forthcoming it will be possible to consider what is the time at which this exceptional restraint, called for by exceptional circumstances, can be properly removed. There was nothing of a precipitate kind in. the-imposition of the restraint which has been imposed, and I must say, on the other hand, that, not having been precipitate in interfering with the strong hand for the prevention of the further progress of disorder, I do not think it would be a wise course on the part of the Government to be precipitate in the 593 removal of that restraint before it is clear that the cause for its existence has in the first place been removed.
§ Mr. McKEAN
Before proceeding to deal with the subject about which I have risen to speak I wish to refer briefly to the speech that we have just listened to from the Chief Secretary. He confined his attention to two counties in Ireland—Sligo and Clare. He drew for us a picture of the conditions existing in those two counties. I confess that I do not exactly follow his reasoning. I do not know what conclusion he wishes us to draw from the state of things which he pictured in Sligo and Clare. If there is any point whatever in his references to the state of things in Clare and Sligo, it seems to me that it justifies up to the hilt all the strictures and criticisms that were passed upon him a few evenings ago in another place. Their Lordships did not confine their strictures to two counties. The burden of their speeches was that here you have a country absolutely abandoned to lawlessness and anarchy. I deny that that statement applies to the rest of Ireland. I do not know Sligo and I do not know Clare, and therefore I am not prepared to join issue with the right hon. Gentleman as to his statement of facts. What I have got to deal with to-night is not two counties in Ireland, but the whole of Ireland and the condition of the whole of Ireland as it exists at this moment. It is a very remarkable thing viewed in the abstract, but viewed with regard to their Lordships, and what we know of them here it is not remarkable, that they drew no distinction whatever as to the character of the cause of lawlessness and anarchy in Ireland. The Chief Secretary in that connection seemed to misinterpret or misconceive the position of the hon. Member for West Clare. I understood the hon. Member for West Clare to take up this position, and it is the true position, that whatever lawlessness prevails in Clare—and I apply the same principle as was embodied in his remarks to the whole of Ireland—it arises from an economic reason, namely, the existence of large grazing tracts in Clare and the non-division and non-distribution of these grazing tracts among the landless men in the county. That is a matter of first-rate importance.
The character of this so-called lawlessness in Ireland is only lawlessness in the artificial sense of the term. There is no 594 criminality, no moral guilt whatever attaching to this lawlessness in Ireland. I will tell the House what the lawlessness, arises from. It is due to the neglect of the Irish Government to fulfil its primary duties in Ireland. It is a gross scandal, the way in which the Irish Government, as at present constituted, has abdicated all the functions of government in Ireland. Here we have a country with gaping wounds, with running sores, and there is no remedy, no balm, no remedial legislation being applied to those wounds, and those sores. For at least twenty-five years we have never had such a period of utter sterility in the way of constructive legislation and remedial measures for Ireland. That is the root cause and practically the only cause of all the unrest and so-called lawlessness in Ireland to-day. It is characteristic that in the House of Lords two nights ago not one single speaker diagnosed the case of Ireland. Not one laid his noble finger on the sore spot in the body politic of Ireland. Not one of them referred even remotely to the necessity for remedial, legislation in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman, in his speech the other evening in this House, in replying to the hon. Member for one of the divisions of Cork, put forward a sort of defence of his administration. He went on to tell us what he was doing in Ireland. The only thing that he was able to say that he was doing for the benefit of the country was that there was one branch of a railway in process of construction, and that it was proposed to construct some others. If ever there was a country that needs the healing hand of a. constructive statesman it is ours.
I may proceed to give some examples. I have a cutting here from the "Freeman's Journal" reporting a meeting of Ulster farmers from Derry and other places, which was held in Derry, to urge the Government to deal promptly and effectively with the flooded districts bordering Lough Neagh and the river Bann, in which many thousands of acres; are rendered useless every year through flooding. The meeting passed resolutions, protesting against the inaction of the Government in not having the Lower Bann cleared of obstructions so as to carry away the surplus water from Lough Neagh as rapidly as it enters the Lough from the Upper Bann and ether rivers.. We have every year in Ireland large tracts of land flooded, and thereby great 595 loss is incurred, loss of something that Is becoming very precious now—loss of food. What is the Government doing to cure this ill in Ireland? The "Freeman's Journal" says:The floors are estimated to cost this country some millions a year. In the present emergency they cause a serious diminution in the food supply. In no other country in the world would a Government refuse the comparatively small loan that would restore these acies of fruitful soil to the production of food.That is something for the right hon. Gentleman to turn his attention to. It is not like the speculative matters with which he dealt the other night. I say with regret and hesitation, but truth compels me to say it, that a more unconvincing and unbusinesslike statement than the right Turn. Gentleman's speech the other night I have seldom, if ever, listened to. There was an air of unreality, I might almost say an air of insincerity, about it. He said:If I thought it would advance the interests of Ireland, and I were under no obligation of Cabinet secrecy, there are many matters when I could disclose which would carry him a long way to understanding designs which at present are in progressive stage towards completion, but the progressive of which it would not be proper that I should spoil by disclosing completely proposals which have been finally decided."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 12th March, 1918, col. 278.]Why this secrecy? How can the premature disclosure of future beneficial projects prejudice them in any way? The King's Speech every Session announces or foreshadows forthcoming legislation. How does this prejudice the chance of these measures passing into law? Yet that is the position of the right hon. Gentleman. He said:First of all, 'here is his proposition that Ireland must have separate and Irish treatment, I accept it absolutely.'Of course, but before the treatment was decided upon what are the doctors going to make out of the prescription? Doctors who have never seen the patient. The right hon. Gentleman is in favour of reconstruction for Ireland being dealt with by a mixed committee made up principally of Englishmen with a small infusion of Irishmen. That is not business. There are some other measures, war measures, that seem to be urgently necessary in Ireland. In Ireland we consume coal that is principally imported from Great Britain. Out of 184,000,000 tons of coal mined in the year 1914 in England, 177,000,000 tons were brought from the mines by rail. Out of 92,400 tons mined in Ireland in the same 596 year only 13,025 were conveyed by rail. In England the railways run up to the mines and the trains take away 96 per cent, of the coal raised. In Ireland the nearest stations are eight, ten, sixteen miles from the minefields. Surely that is a small matter, and might very well be dealt with as a war measure. Coal has to be carried in ships. The Prime Minister told us that the winning of the War depends on ships. Why should ships be devoted to carrying coal from Wales, Scotland, and Ireland when we have plenty of coal at home? We cannot utilise our own coal because we have no railways up to the mines. The right hon. Gentleman told us the other evening that there was one railway being constructed, and others in contemplation. He did not even mention what the one was. I would like to quote from a speech to which I had the pleasure of listening some time ago, and it has struck me with amazement that it has not been quoted many times before. Lord Northcliffe, at the Irish Club last year, made a statesmanlike speech, the most statesmanlike I ever heard in my life. It revealed Lord Northcliffe as a personality that we have not known before. It was like a new light thrown upon him. His speech revealed him as a constructive statesman, which is what we want in Ireland, and England also. He said:Every country amongst the Allies has got a war bonus in the shape of important legislation, better economic conditions and other benefits, except Ireland.Further on he says:I do not know to whose neglect it is due, but of the.£40,000,000 spent weekly on the War but little goes to Ireland.I will state one or two ways in which the Government can do something to justify its existence, which it is certainly not doing to-day. The compulsory taking over and equitable sub-division of grass ranches is an absolutely urgent matter. No Government really worthy of its existence, and which has any reputation to maintain, would leave this matter as it stands at present. The right hon. Gentleman, in his speech the other night, drew a picture of a certain district and how it had been changed under the new regime. What did it all amount to? What was the achievement of the Government in Ireland last year? It was that out of 11,000,000 acres under grass they have converted 700,000 acres to tillage. What an achievement! Here you are crying out for increased food production, and in Ireland 597 you have 11,000,000 acres under grass Then you come here and say that there is lawlessness and anarchy in Ireland, at the very time that these men are waiting for land to cultivate. The Conservative Government in 1905, and all Conservative Governments, have been peculiarly identified with the great work of getting the land in the hands of the people, and I call upon the Government to continue that course. It is a most extraordinary thing that food production is being called for in Ireland by the people here, and yet, in that country, where all the conditions are favourable to food production, practically nothing except a mere bagatelle has been done, except this 700,000 acres out of 11,000,000 acres. I submit that the Government are wholly wanting in the discharge of their duty to the people of Ireland in regard to Irish industries. The Government have taken no steps whatever to promote the industrial welfare of the country. The British Government is under a special obligation to Ireland to deal with the industries of Ireland, because by its penal legislation in the past it has extinguished a number of industries, and by its policy has prevented the introduction of many other industries that might have arisen and grown up. Lord Northcliffe made some remarks that are deserving of the attention of the Government. He occupies a very great position in this country; he has built up a wonderful institution here, and a man such as he ought to be listened to by the Government. Here is what he said:I regret most deeply, more deeply than I can say, that the War has given practically no development to Irish industry. In the matter of Living I eland a share of industrial development in the last two and a half yea s we have been strangely neglectful.When is that neglect going to cease? When is the Irish Government going to justify its existence? How long is Ireland to be put off with plausible phrases of which we heard so many the other evening? The right hon. Gentleman in a speech the other night, talking about what was going to be done, but it was all in the future; he talks in terms of the future always. There is another department in regard to which I wish to make my position clear, and to offer a suggestion to the Government. I charge the Government with neglecting its primary duty to the people of Ireland. Last year our country paid over to Great Britain £23,000,000 of hard-earned money, and we are not getting back our fair share. When an English- 598 man pays money in the shape of taxation he gets it back again. Capital is the life-blood of a country. You are draining out of Ireland its very life-blood, and the nation is getting nothing back in return. It is not merely that you are not doing your duty by the country. You are doing it a great injustice, and I call upon the Government to amend their ways and to justify their existence. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of himself as a trustee for the interests of Ireland. A trustee is bound by the strictest law in English jurisprudence. I do not know of any law that is more strict than the law dealing with trustees. Is the right hon. Gentleman discharging his duty as a trustee for the people of Ireland? I say deliberately he is not. We usually cannot get these subjects discussed in this House except in the dinner-hour. I claim they ought to be discussed on their merits, and I am standing on my rights as a Member of this House when I call upon the Government to take this work in hand and to do something for my country. We have the opinion of Lord Northcliffe that there has been a gross dereliction of duty. How long is it to continue? When will the Government begin to discharge its duty in a conscientious way?
I have something else to propose. There ought to be a Reconstruction Commission appointed for Ireland. It is a farce to suggest that a Reconstruction Commission sitting in England can cover the case of Ireland. More than that, the head of the Reconstruction Commission in this country is a man of only fourth-rate legislative ability; he may be good enough for England, he is not good enough for us. I want a man of real constructive ability do this work in Ireland. I want a man who can force on the Government the measures that are necessary for the good of Ireland. I want those measures to be considered first by Irishmen. Is it not a perfect farce to have a number of men sitting here in London, most of whom are-Englishmen, who may have the best intentions in the world—I do not deny that—is it not a farce, I ask, that such men should be called upon to do this work for us? We want men who can give a more adequate period of time and more attention to the affairs of Ireland. It is only Irishmen sitting at home on the soil of Ireland who can deal with this question. If there is one country in the world that needs constructive statesmanship that country is Ireland. It is a 599 country of immense possibilities; those possibilities are not being developed. Let me take one Department alone in which this Reconstruction Commission which I suggest—and I do suggest a Commission because greater prestige attaches to it than to a Committee, and its recommendations carry more weight—could do work of great value. Take the question of Irish Education. If ever there was a question which needed discussion by a large and representative body of men it is the education question. Education in Ireland is in a most chaotic state. Primary education is run there on totally false lines, it is a purely artificial and mechanical system. Why should we not have a Commission to examine witnesses as to the merits or demerits of primary education in Ireland? In the Bill discussed in this House yesterday provision was made for one great principle—the continuation of education. Why should we in Ireland have no thought given to this great principle? But not a word is said about it for Ireland. All that is done there is to propose to appoint two Committees, one of which is to deal with the question of teachers' salaries. But nothing is said about education itself. The interests of the teachers are not the sole interests. What about the country? What about the children of Ireland? If education is important for England it is doubly important for us in Ireland. It is practically the only thing you have left us in Ireland, you have robbed us of everything else. We want also a Commission in Ireland to examine into the question of technical education and to see how far it is in touch with industrial wants and with the realities of the situation in Ireland. That reminds me of a remark made by the right hon. Gentleman the other evening. He said that on a question where you want millions of expenditure it is not the surest way to get the money to press the matter when you have a war expenditure of from £6,000,000 to £7,000,000 daily. That may be so, but when the Minister for Education in England wants money the position is altogether different, and no objection is offered to his having it, it is only in the case of Ireland that this obstacle is set up.
What I demand is this: You took from us last year £23,000,000, you gave us back by way of expenditure less than 600 £12,000,000, the remainder you kept for yourself, and it represents so much hard-earned Irish money. If we were rich, people it might not matter much. But we cannot afford it, and surely it is only natural for us to ask you, a rich nation, to give us back at least a fair proportion of our own money which is urgently demanded by the necessities of the case in Ireland. I have asked for a Reconstruction Commission. If this Parliament is honest it will grant my request. Every member of the Government is pledged to the principle of Home Rule, and I ask hon. Members to give an earnest of their sincerity in the application of this principle. In this case apply to us the principle of Home Rule. There is no question of setting up a Parliament in Dublin. There is no question of expenses except the infinitesimal sum for the expenses of this Commission, and I say that it is urgently and absolutely required. I say further that if you want to restore peace and order in Ireland you must do something for the country. Does any man on that Bench, imagine that if you were really looking after the interests of the country in a serious and conscientious way these disorders could take place in Ireland? I say it is impossible, because if you were really doing useful constructive remedial work for the country you would rally to your support the best elements in the country, and the best elements in the country constitute the overwhelming majority of the population. The people of Ireland are naturally a law-abiding people. It is only when the laws are bad laws, when the country is being neglected that there is lawlessness, and that is the cause of this lawlessness in Ireland. I call for remedial legislation for Ireland. I call on the Government to wake up.
I hear that the Chief Secretary is going to get a high law position. I hope he will get it soon. I hope he will get it very soon, because, if ever we had a Chief Secretary who failed utterly to justify his existence he is the one of them all. I hear it also suggested that a certain Member who spoke here to-night is going to be the new Chief Secretary for Ireland. I hope he is not going to be the new Chief Secretary for Ireland. We want a man in Ireland who means business, a man with some sort of constructive genius. We want a man not merely of imagination, such as George Wyndham—there was an ideal Chief Secretary—but 601 a man with the vision of a statesman, not a Government under-strapper, or whipper-snapper, and we are not going to be put off with these things. The proper man to send to Ireland—and I am not afraid to say this—is a Catholic to be Chief Secretary for Ireland. The majority of us Irish are Catholics. You cannot rule religion out of the life of Ireland, try as you may. You have sitting on that Bench—he does not know I am going to say it—a man who would make an ideal Chief Secretary for Ireland, under whose rule I have no hesitation in saying you would have peace restored in Ireland, and that is the Chief Whip (Lord E. Talbot), a man who does not exploit himself, or push himself. I have not compared notes with him; I say this on my own responsibility. I say that it is time for you to send to Ireland a man who will be in sympathy with the people, and, I say, there is the. sort of man we want, a man like the Chief Whip. If you want to carry on the government of Ireland successfully, if you want to justify your existence, if you want to preserve your character as a trustee, you must do this work in a totally different way and in a totally different spirit from that in which you have done it for the last two years. I am very sorry if I have delayed hon. Members who want to approach other subjects. It is always a source of regret to me to stand in the way of other people, but I think the hon. Members who have still subjects to bring forward will recognise that this is a very important matter. We are dealing with the claims of a nation, and with the utter neglect to deal with the affairs of that nation. So it required somebody to speak out, and that must be my apology and excuse to hon. Members whom I have delayed.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL for IRELAND (Mr. Arthur Samuels)
I am afraid the hon. Member who has just addressed the House would think I paid him a very poor compliment indeed if I attempted, at this hour, and having regard to the very pressing business that must still be discharged, to enter into the several topics of enormous importance on which he has addressed the House. It is not the time or the occasion to do so. He has quite properly drawn the attention of the Government to very pressing and important matters, and I think he will understand my position when I say 602 that I do not intend to enter into the most interesting personal allusions which he more recently made—
§ Mr. McKEAN
It was because I wanted to apply the principle practically. I say the time has come to appoint a Catholic Chief Secretary for Ireland.
§ Mr. SAMUELS
—except that I have been for some time associated with my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary, and I am convinced of this, that there is no man, either in Ireland or the United Kingdom who is more desirous of the progress, prosperity, and peace of Ireland than the Chief Secretary—
§ Mr. SAMUELS
or who is more anxious, so far as he possibly can, to urge forward that constructive policy on which he has dwelt, and of which he is so earnest an advocate. He speaks in this way, as I know, for multitudes of quiet, peaceable, and industrious men and women in Ireland who care little for our party cries and politics, and who wish only to devote themselves to the interests of their country, to their businesses, and to promote its prosperity. I am not going to dwell on these questions. Nearly every one of them would require not one night but several, but I would just deal with the point of the hon. Member regarding the railways that are being constructed. There is the Wolthill line, joining up the Queen's County collieries with Athy; the Arigna mine in the West of Ireland—and I am sure, the hon. Member is aware of the great solicitude of the Chief Secretary with regard to this matter—and the Castlecomer mine, which were probably in the mind of the hon. Member when he was addressing the House.
§ Mr. SAMUELS
Those are the three main collieries. With regard to the flooding of the River Bann, I would refer him to the very important Commission which reported in 1907 on the whole system of drainage in Ireland, and if he will look into it he will see that that Commission was composed of two very eminent Irish engineers, Mr. J. H. Ryan and Mr. James Dillon, presided over by Sir Alexander Binnie, President of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Mr. Stephen Brown and the right hon. Thomas Andrews being other members. He will find there the enormous difficulties with 603 which the Government would have to deal, not only financial difficulties but difficulties arising out of the change that has been effected by the alteration in the tenure of land in Ireland, and tremendous difficulties in connection with the local bodies dealing with different areas. It is a matter which we hope will be dealt with at some time, but to launch out on it in the middle of war would not be possible or satisfactory. I have listened to the suggestions which the hon. Gentleman has made, and I am sure there are many people who have listened and will agree with his views that a policy of conservative construction is the healthiest and best policy we can pursue in Ireland. I hope that when peace is restored all the Members from those benches will assist to the best of their ability to develop that idea, and I hope we shall have the assistance of the hon. Member.