HC Deb 05 August 1919 vol 119 cc142-3
3. Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention had been drawn to the statements made in the Weimar Assembly by Heir Erzberger and in Paris by M. Painlevé with regard to the alleged Peace offer made to Germany by the Allies in August, 1917; whether an exchange of Notes did take place in August and September, 1917, between the British Minister to the Vatican and the German Chancellor through the good offices of the Holy See; whether the initiative was taken by the British or by the German Governments; and when the relevant documents would be published?


It is the intention of His Majesty's Government to lay Papers on this question before Parliament as soon as possible. Meanwhile, I may inform the hon. and gallant Member that the statements made by Herr Erzberger at "Weimar are not an accurate presentment of tins facts. On 21st August, 1917, His Majesty's Minister to the Vatican was instructed to inform the Cardinal Secretary of State that His Majesty's Government could not say what reply, if any, would be made to the Pope's peace proposals, as His Majesty's Government had not had time to consult their Allies; and in any case it appeared to be hopeless to try to bring the belligerents into agreement until the Central Powers had given some indication of the objects for which they were prosecuting the War. Cardinal Gasparri, in his answer, narrowed the issue by stating that the German Government had declared their intention to restore independence to Belgium, pointing to the Reichstag resolution in favour of peace without annexations. Count de Salis observed that His Majesty's Government had no authoritative text of this document and that it was not satisfactory, as the decision did not rest with the Reichstag. On 24th August the Cardinal asked that the following reply should be sent to the message from His Majesty's Government: "The Cardinal Secretary of State reserves to himself to answer the telegram after having received from the German Government an official declaration relative to Belgium, for which he has asked."

The Cardinal asked Count do Salis for his opinion on this reply, and the latter, thinking that there would be no objection to his expressing a personal opinion, stated that a declaration regarding Belgium seemed desirable, as the point was important, especially for Great Britain, but that the Cardinal would remember that it was only one of many issues between the belligerents. Oh receiving Count de Salis' report of this conversation, His Majesty's Government thought that it was undesirable to be drawn into a piecemeal discussion of this question, and that, if the Central Powers wished to negotiate, they should state their terms in full Count de Salis was, therefore, instructed not to intervene in any way in the negotiations between the Vatican and Germany, and that if he were again asked for his opinion he should decline to give it. The matter then dropped, as the German Government made no declaration regarding Belgium.

It is thus clear that His Majesty's Government made no advance towards Germany at this time, but they were of course ready to examine, in conjunction with the Allies, any genuine proposals tending to Peace, which they might receive from the German Government.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

Does that mean that we are to have Papers?


Yes, it does.

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