HC Deb 10 November 1919 vol 121 cc14-5
MR. BOTTOMLEY (by Private Notice)

asked the Prime Minister whether his statement at the Guildhall Banquet on Saturday, to the effect that he hoped that the time was not far distant when the Powers would be able to renew the attempt to organise peace among the warring sections in Russia was intended to imply a willingness to open negotiations with Lenin and Trotsky, and, if so, whether the Government, before taking any such momentous step, would give the House an opportunity of expressing its opinion?

Mr. BONAR LAW (Leader of the House)

On receipt of this notice, I sent my hon. Friend a message that the Prime Minister was coming on Thursday, and suggesting that the question might be postponed until then, but I quite understand that may not be a suggestion which commends itself to the hon. Member. The speech of my right hon. Friend, in which he spoke of the conditions during the winter, shows that there is no immediate intention of doing anything of the kind, and I can give my hon. Friend and the House an assurance that no step such as is contemplated in the question will be taken until the House of Commons has had a full opportunity of discussing it.


Will the right hon. Gentleman inform the Prime Minister that at least so far as a certain section of this House is concerned there exists considerable resentment that he should choose the free and easy atmosphere of an after-dinner speech to convey a matter of urgent public policy rather than the more serious atmosphere of this House?


Will the right hon. Gentleman also convey to the Prime Minister the information that it would have been better for that declaration to have been made, in accordance with the Labour policy advocated on Russia, when the matter was discussed here in this House?


With regard to the first question, I do not myself see that such a remark is in the least called for. The Guildhall banquets have been regarded for I do not know how many generations as a suitable occasion for making a speech of that kind. I did not notice, and I listened to the Debate very carefully, that there was anything in the speech of my right hon. Friend which was at all in accord with the views expressed by my right hon. Friend opposite.

Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, in view of the Government policy laid down, that there is a chance of peace in Russia in the spring, the blockade is to be kept on this winter?


Are we to understand that the Government have in no way departed from the policy described by the Secretary of State for War on Wednesday last, and carried by an overwhelming vote in this House?


I have already said that is exactly how the speech strikes me. It is simply an expression of the hope, which I am sure the whole House will share, that there may be some method of obtaining Peace in Russia.


In view of the apparent divergence in policy indicated in the speeches of the Secretary of State for War and the Prime Minister, may there not be an early opportunity of having the subject discussed once again in this House?


If there is any need for discussion, an opportunity will be given, but I did not myself notice any such discrepancy.