HC Deb 03 July 1919 vol 117 cc1211-3

Before I say a word about the character of the Treaty, and about the purpose which animated those who negotiated it, I should like to be able to say how much we all owe to the experts who assisted in the preparation of the Treaty, and my colleagues, more particularly in France, who were associated with me in its preparation. I cannot say how much I personally owe, and how much I am certain the nation owes, to the Foreign Secretary (Mr. Balfour), whose ripe experience, acute intellect, and brilliant pen have been invaluable in the preparation of the various parts of this great document. I should also like to recognise the services rendered by my right hon. Friend and colleague the Member for the Gorbals Division of Glasgow (Mr. Barnes), for the great tact with which he initiated, negotiated, and put through all the terms of that great labour charter which is now incorporated in this Treaty of Peace. I mention them particularly because, although other Ministers from time to time rendered very great assistance, these were there throughout, and devoted the whole of their time to this great task. I should like also to be able to say how much we owe to the Prime Ministers and other members of the great Dominion Governments for the assistance which they gave—Sir Robert Borden, Mr. Hughes, Mr. Massey, and General Botha. They took part in some of the most difficult Commissions, notably the Territorial Commissions for the adjustment of the extraordinarily delicate and complex ethnical, economic, and strategic questions which arose between the various States throughout Europe. They, in the main, represented the British Empire on many of these most difficult Commissions. We owe a great deal to the ability and judgment with which they discharged their functions.

I should not, however, be doing my duty if I did not recognise how much this country owes to the great body of experts who have taken part in the various, the innumerable, Commissions that have been working in connection with the preparation of these documents. We are rather apt in this country, I think, to depreciate our public servants, and to treat them as rather overpaid and under worked servants. They are neither overpaid nor underworked. Quite the reverse. I cannot tell the House the measure of admiration won amongst the foreign delegations—I think it is right the country should know the admiration won amongst the foreign delegations—by the work of the British experts on the various Commissions. It was a matter of common knowledge and common talk how efficient they were, how skilful: and a good deal of this Treaty is the direct work of public servants of Great Britain on these world Commissions, where they really actually took a lead. They have done arduous, very arduous service—service of a very high order—and we all owe them a deep debt of gratitude and appreciation—and, let me add, admiration—for their splendid work. These British experts have met the experts of the whole world on equal terms, to say the very least. I feel it may duty to make that acknowledgment.