No alien shall hold a pilotage certificate for any port in the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW (Leader of the House)
I beg to move, at the end, to add the words:Except that the provisions of Section 24 of the Pilotage Act, 1913, shall continue to apply to the renewal and issue of certificates entitling a master or mate of French nationality to navigate his ship into the ports of Newhaven and Grimsby.Before the House adjourned on Thursday it was agreed that an opportunity should be given to the Government in the time between then and to-day to consider what steps we should take in connection with the Bill then before the House. I propose to state, very briefly, the course which the Government recommend to the House. The House will recollect that the particular point in regard to which the Division, to which my right hon. Friend (Mr. Adamson) referred with doubtful satisfaction took place had reference not merely to our own policy, but also to one of our Allies. It seems to me, therefore, and I am sure that the House will agree with me in this, that it is necessary without any delay and at the first opportunity to settle once and for all that particular point. I propose, therefore, to move an Amendment dealing with that point, and, after it has been decided by the House, we shall proceed, or propose to proceed, with the business set down for this week, and the further stages of the Aliens Bill will be taken next week. In the interval there will be some Amendments proposed by the Government and probably some others which will be upon the Order Paper. With regard to the particular point which I am asking the House to discuss to-day. We were considering Clause 4 of the Aliens Bill. I am glad to find that it is in order to move an Amendment to that Bill dealing with this point to which I have referred, and I shall now submit it to the House, feeling confident that the House will accept it, and, for the reason which I have already hinted at, I venture 326 to hope that not only will the House accept it, but that it will accept it without any difference of opinion whatever:
Yes; it is to continue what was allowed before to these particular men. The reason why I consider this—as I am sure the House will—a matter of great importance is because of its international significance. In a case of this kind it is not merely a question of what exactly is done by the Government or by the House of Commons. It is a question quite as much of the impression which is created by that Act, at a time like this, when, as every Member of the House knows, there has been for some mouths in a certain section of the Press, and once or twice, though riot often I am glad to say, in speeches in the French Parliament, a suggestion that we, the British people, have already forgotten the way in which we have worked together throughout the War, and are no longer friendly. I am perfectly certain that that criticism has no foundation whatever. It is far more important than any question of what to do in this House to a Government, that it should be made absolutely clear that there is no such feeling in any section of the House. The particular point, I think, can be explained, I hope to the satisfaction of the House, in a very few words. There has never been any question that British pilotage ought, as a matter of principle, to be confined to men of British nationality. That is not in any sense, and has not been in my time, a party question. As a matter of fact, my right hon. Friend the head of the Government (Mr. Lloyd George)—who does not belong to be party to which I belong —[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh‡"]—well, perhaps I belong to his—my right hon. Friend was the first, when he was President of the Board of Trade, to lay down that principle, and to carry it into effect. In consequence of his action then the French Government pressed the claims of the particular men referred to in this Amendment. They attached so much importance to it that the President for two years pressed it with all the strength that he could, and after a long series of negotiations an agreement was reached. That agreement did not take the form of any definite Convention by the negotiations resulted in this: The French Government declared that they would be satisfied if 327 the provision proposed by the Government of the day were placed in the Act of 1913. That provision was placed in the Act and it received the sanction of the House of Commons.
Apart altogether from the merits of the case, I do really think that if we were to do away with that agreement there would be not only ground for misconception, but there would he a real grievance, which I am sure the House would not for a moment wish to see. Let me put the position as I see it. Suppose the position were reversed. This is exactly how the matter stands. It is less than a year since we were fighting with the French, not only as Allies in a common cause, but it is less than a year since that millions of British people were on French soil fighting with our French comrades there practically as part of the same Army. Suppose it had been suggested in this House twelve months ago that an agreement that we had come to with the French, and to which they attached importance before the War, was going to be overthrown within a year of the end of that War. That would have been absolutely unthinkable, and I venture to say that it is equally unthinkable to-day. For that reason I am sure the House will agree that the Government. have no alternative—none whatever—to accepting, in one form or other, words making it clear to the French Government and the French people that we do intend to adhere to that agreement. I am sure that no Government could take any other course. But there is something which I think is more important even than the view of the Government on a question of this kind. It is far more important that the French Government should realise that it is the view of the House of Commons—which is more important than that of any Government. That is the position.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I am sure my hon. Friend will not wish me to go into that. It is not very easy to make a position, complicated like this, quite plain. I am quite certain that if I had happened to be in the House and had attempted to explain the position on Thursday I should not have succeeded better than my right hon. Friend. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh‡"] But we do not want to raise questions of that kind now. Personally I think there is no doubt—there has not been doubt in 328 any of our minds—as to what the vote of the House of Commons meant. It is important, however, not only that we should realise, but that our friends and Allies should realise it. I have read the Debate very carefully, and I have tried to focus in soy mind the reasons which led to that vote. There are many of them, and I think I understand them all. Let me try to deal very briefly with some of them and with the facts in regard to them. In the first place, although this has nothing to do with our relations with France, there is, I am sure, a feeling in the House that since this question had been thoroughly discussed in Committee and the Committee had conic to a decision the House wished to back up the Committee in the decision it came to. That is natural. It is quite evident that if our system of Standing Committees is to be continued it must be made quite clear that they are really to take the place of Committees of the House. They would become useless, and Members would take no interest in them if the idea were to gain ground that whenever there was anything passed the Government did not like it would at once try to reverse it on the floor of the House. This is not a new idea. There is no one who has a greater interest in or a greater desire for the success, under present conditions, of this Committee system, because without it we cannot get the necessary legislation through. This is a repetition of what I said in moving the Procedure Motion—we shall destroy the usefulness of these Standing, Committees altogether if we give them the impression that, after careful and minute work, what they do is going to be upset again on the floor of the House of Commons."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th February, 1919, col. 1278, Vol. 112.]4.0 P.M.
But this has nothing to do with this subject. I can assure the House that not only myself, but the whole of the Government, realise it is our business, as far as we can, to strengthen the hands of these Committees, and to avoid doing anything to lessen their usefulness. There are other considerations which hon. Members had in mind. Two of those were that there should be a complete "clean cut." as it was called in the Debate—that unless no foreigners were allowed at all to fill this position, we should find, by the mysterious operation of the most-favoured-nation Clause, or in some other way, that the whole thing was being reopened, and that we should drift back again into the posi- 329 tion in which we were at the time war broke out. There was another feeling—I sympathise with it, for in the early days, when I was a young Member of the House, I took a great interest in the Aliens Bill at that time and we thought we had done something; I am referring now to the party to which I belong—we came to the conclusion that what we had done was largely upset by the action of the Department. Those are feelings we can understand. I am sure that many Members felt that through Departmental action, or in some other way, there was a danger of the whole thing being annulled. I think I have rightly interpreted what influenced a large number of those who took part in this discussion. I believe that the Amendment, as it was settled by the Committee, could have avoided the risk of these dangers. That is my opinion. In any case it is an advantage to know exactly what ewe —I mean the House of Commons and the Government—desire. It is an advantage that it should be put in the clearest possible way. The Amendment which I now move does make it perfectly plain. If it is any satisfaction to the House I shall add this: that I have the authority of the Law Officers for saying that by no method except by a new Act of Parliament can the privilege which is given to the French under this Amendment be extended in any direction whatever in regard to pilotage.
There is another consideration which, I think, influenced some hon. Members. They desired that there should be reciprocity. That is reasonable. But I venture to say to the House, and I am sure every hon. Member will agree with me, that if that ought to be attained, this is not the way to attain it, nor do I think this is the time. If an agreement has been entered into between any two Governments, and most of all between two Governments which are in the relationship to each other in which the French and the British Governments are, that ought not to be -done by a vote of the House of Commons without the power of negotiating, without the power of hearing what the French have to say. That ought to be done only after negotiations, and the result of those negotiations could be put into a Bill. That is my view on the merits of the point. As a matter of fact, I think there is most complete reciprocity as possible. It would be quite possible to put it in a way which would be more or less accurate. 330 We could say, for instance, with truth, that a British ship under these conditions going into a French port does pay something for pilotage, but a French ship under the same conditions coming a British port does not pay anything for pilotage. Let me put it in other words and the House will see that it is complete reciprocity. 'What I have said is true, but, on the other hand, it is true that a British ship going into a French port under this arrangement pays precisely the same dues, including what is paid for pilotage, as are paid by a French ship in the same position. Could you have by any possibility greater reciprocity than this as a question of a practical arrangement—that the British ships are treated in precisely the same way in which French ships are treated under precisely the same conditions in British ports? I do not think the House wishes me to labour the question any further.
They are not affected, and cannot be brought in under this Amendment, which is confined absolutely to the French. It is limited to a limited number of Frenchmen. I do not think I need say more. I agree that I should not be in order, nor do I think it would be very desirable to refer to other incidents connected with the vote on Thursday, but perhaps I may say, in passing, that it was rather a curiosity—I certainly do not remember a case in my Parliamentary lifetime—because it was a case of a Government being defeated. by the votes of those who were undoubtedly its own friends. Let me say this: We are quite certain that the majority which gave the decision on Thursday was composed of hon. Members who are not only in name but who are in reality friends and supporters of the Government. We not only believe that, but we arc certain of it. If we were not certain of it, then I am bound to say—and I am sure I speak for my right hon. Friend the head of the Government as much as for myself—that if we were not so certain, we should not have been here to-day as representing His Majesty on the floor of the House of Commons. If it is curious from that point of view, it is curious from another point of view. I happened to read a journal which is supposed to represent more or less—perhaps less rather than more—the views of Labour Members who sit on the bench 331 opposite. This article said that the Government were defeated when for once they were in the right. If the "Daily Herald" was right, it is a curious coincidence that of the members of the party which that paper is supposed more or less to represent, not one voted for what was right, but forty voted for what was wrong.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
That is by the way. I really wish the House to look upon this from the point of view which I put before them at first. After a war like this, a world convulsion such as we have seen, when an attempt is made to settle, when the cohesive power which has kept the Allies together during the War is gone, nothing is more important, and nothing could be more vital to the world, than that the good feeling between France and this country which prevailed during the War should continue in the settlement. We have had difficult negotiations. They have been made in every case without friction. There was plenty of plain statement of each other's point of view by my right hon. Friend and the head of the French Government, who was even franker than he, if that were possible. There has been plenty of that, but there has been nothing but understanding and good will up to now. The negotiations which have still to go forward dealing with the settlement of the Turkish Empire raise questions which touch national prejudices and feelings more closely than any of the discussions which have taken place up to now. For that reason I venture to hope that we shall have a unanimous vote on this Amendment, for nothing could be more important than that we should make it plain, not only to the French Government, but to the French people that every one of us, from His Majesty downwards, has still the same feeling of respect and admiration for those who have been our comrades in the field.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
We have had a very interesting explanation from the Leader of the House of the steps that the Government propose to take in order to get over the difficulty in which they have been placed by the vote of the House on Thursday last. I do not think, so far as I am personally concerned, that the explanation that has been given by the 332 Leader of the House goes far enough. The Leader of the House told us at the close of business on Thursday that the Government would take into consideration the steps that were necessary in order to overcome the difficulties in which they had been placed, and he has outlined to a considerable extent the steps that they have taken and the considerations which have been borne in mind by them as a Government. But, curiously enough, he has not said a word concerning those Members of the House outside the Government who have been taken into consultation in the interval regarding this matter. We have been left to gather our information on this very important point from the newspapers. I desire to ask the Leader of the House or some of his colleagues if they do not think that this is a question of sufficient importance on which to consult the other sections of the House who were in opposition to the particular Clause which was under discussion when the vote was taken on Thursday last? As the right hon. Gentleman has already pointed out, the Labour party almost unanimously-—
§ Mr. ADAMSON
—voted against the Government on that occasion. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame‡"] That may or may not be. Does not the Leader of the House think that they should have been called into consultation?
§ Mr. ADAMSON
The point is this, that the members of the Labour party are as anxious as any section of the House, including the Government itself, to maintain the most friendly relations with the French people, and surely when so important a matter as this is involved they had some claim to he consulted as well as other sections of the House who were consulted, according to the newspapers. The newspapers go further. They inform us that, in addition to these Members of the House being consulted, before an agreement was come to a bargain was made between those Members and the Government. I would like to know what are the terms of the bargain that is reputed to have been made between the Government and the Members referred to. If a bargain has been made of the kind that we see stated in some of the newspapers of the 333 country it was a most undignified position for the Government to take up. Under such circumstances, if the Government had had any self-respect they would have resigned. Evidently, however, they arc prepared to accept that humiliation in order to enjoy the fruits of office for a little longer. I think we should have a statement from some member of the Government on the particular point I have raised. We ought to know if conditions were laid down and accepted by the Government regarding the other Clauses of this Bill before those Members who were called into consultation agreed to withdraw their opposition.
§ Sir EDWARD CARSON
I was one of those Members referred to by my right hon. Friend, and I can assure him that I do not care one jot or tittle whether I was consulted or not. But I hope my right hon. Friend opposite is not going to lay down that the only Members who are ever to be consulted are the Labour party. I hardly ever take up a newspaper without seeing that 10, Downing Street, inside and outside, was crammed with the Labour party. The truth of the matter is that the Labour party have been so indulged by the Government, ever since this Government came into power, that, although they are a small minority in this House, if the truth were known they really think no one ought to be considered or heard but themselves. The great mistake the Labour party make, in my opinion, is that they think they are the community, whereas they are at most only an important section of the community. I am one of those who, having been a long time in the House, think that a great deal too much importance is attached to votes on details and their results, either in Committee or upon Report. I think one of the most ridiculous portions of our procedure was that if you carried an Amendment which the great bulk of the House thought was a right Amendment, you thereby created a political crisis. It is absurd. I remember Amendments being moved in the old political fights which were rejected because the Government would have been bound to treat them as votes of confidence, and many members of the Government used to come over to us afterwards and say, "You know you were right on that Amendment, but we dared not do it." Is not that an absurd position for the great British House of Commons to be in? One thing I fervently hope will 334 come out of our new procedure with these Committees upstairs is that these votes, trying to bring a Bill into unison with the general desire of the House, will be treated as business and not political measures. I am perfectly sure if that was once firmly laid down by the House of Commons itself you would get far better legislation in detail than you do at present, and what is more, you would bring to bear upon your Bills, for a useful purpose, the individual knowledge and ability of each individual in this House, which was by the old system entirely discouraged as being rather a nuisance more than anything else, however able and however knowledgable the individual who moves the Amendment may be.
Having said so much, let me say, so far as I was concerned, and I think the bulk of the House on Thursday last, there was and could be no intention to offer any affront to our great and loved ally, France. It is absurd to think of it. The hearts of the people of this country are still throbbing in unison with that great nation and are still picturing to themselves the great suffering and devastation and their efforts to evolve their own reconstruction under difficulties which are even greater than our own. No; the French part of the question was a very small one. What the House was not satisfied about was that the Clause as framed could not or might not be extended to those who are not, never were, and probably never will be, our allies, and the House by its vote meant this. They will not in future, as they have in the past, leave our ports open to the officers of foreign ships, treating foreign masters and mates exactly in the same way as we treat our own men. What the House determined was that that was to be put an end to for all time so far as this House of Commons was concerned, and the Government were unable to satisfy us that that was the effect of the Amendment which was on the Paper on Thursday. As I understand, the Amendment that is now before the House is of a very limited character. It confines it to already existing licences, which may be renewed to the masters and mates of certain ships passing into two ports only in the United Kingdom. That is a purely limited privilege to a very small class of the Mercantile Marine of France. But as I understand, the Law Officers have said—and I am sure they are right—looking at the Section of the Act of 1913, that the conditions laid down by that Section, which will enable any other 335 nationality to claim most-favoured treatment under the most-favoured-nation Clause, cannot arise in reference to any other nationality. If that is so, we are now dealing solely and exclusively with those few pilots referred to in the Amendment, and I am sure the House will be satisfied that that concession ought to be continued to our great Ally, France, but at the same time they will also feel satisfaction that it is now beyond all doubt that they are the only foreigners who can obtain, as they have obtained hitherto, a pilot's certificate to navigate into our ports. I think the course the Government have taken has been a very wise one, and I think also that what they ask for, namely, a unanimous vote of this House in favour of this concession, is one that the House will readily give.
§ Sir DONALD MACLEAN
Before the House proceeds as I am sure it will, to the suggestion of the Leader of the House, and gives a unanimous vote on this question, may I put a question to the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the next stage of the Bill. I understand that a very important Report by Mr. Justice Younger's Committee has been submitted to the Government. I have no personal knowledge of the work of that Special Committee, but I have for two or three years had very considerable knowledge of similar work, and if my experience of the past is of any use at all with regard to what is likely to be in that Report, the information in it will be of the very greatest service to the House in considering some of the most important Clauses of the Bill still left for the House's consideration, and I hope that Report can be printed and issued to the House. With regard to the particular question, I was one of those who did not vote at all on the last occasion. I did not regard it at all as sonic people seem to have regarded it, as a matter of such importance as to call upon the Government to consider whether they should resign or not. I am only glad they have looked at it in the way in which the late Lord Justice Bowen regarded going to sea on a Friday. It was not necessarily fatal, but very unfortunate.
§ Mr. INSKIP
I am quite sure the impression will be a wrong one if it gets abroad that the House was voting under any misapprehension upon the issue which was in 336 volved when it gave its vote on Thursday, although at the same time we fully accept and welcome the statement of the Leader of the House, and in view of his statement I am sure every section of the House will accept the Amendment in the terms in which he has proposed it. In those quarters where we are accustomed to look every morning for our instructions as to the way in which we shall vote and speak, there seems to be some impression that we were thinking of anything but the Aliens Bill. We were not thinking of anything but the Aliens Bill. Our vote was not intended to show any diminution of our confidence in the Leader of the House or in the policy which die supports. Our action was directed—and I am speaking as one who made the first speech against the Amendment—to preventing the issue and renewal of certificates to aliens other than those of French nationality, and the fact is that of the pilotage certificates of which we heard so much on Thursday no fewer than seventeen were issued to men who were not of French nationality. Eleven of them were Dutchmen, three were Belgian, two were Swedes and one was a Dane, and under the Clause as submitted by the Home Secretary everyone of those certificates would have boon renewed. Under the Clause as now proposed by the Leader of the House these certificates will not be renewed. We were twitted with making a great issue of a matter of no importance because only twenty-four certificates were involved. If we had had that frank and well-informed statement that we might have expected we should have been told that only four certificates were in question, namely, the four certificates which were granted to masters or mates of French nationality, two of which are used for navigating steamers from Dieppe to Newhaven and two for navigating steamers from St. Nazaire also to Newhaven. The issue was one of even less importance than the President of the Board of Trade led the House to believe. I think the House will have the satisfaction of knowing, at any rate, that the attitude which it took up on Thursday has led to the final declaration of the law that no certificates will in future be granted to any except members of the French nation, and that we are happy and proud to grant them that indulgence by reason of our age long alliance with them as well as the alliance which we have had with them in the last few years. I should like also to say 337 this on behalf of the pilots for whom I speak, that they have acted throughout in the fullest co-operation and amity with their brothers the French pilots, and the Amendment now proposed by the Government will have the full assent of the pilots on both sides of the Channel. If the pilots have to thank anyone for this, it is not those who were the spokesmen on behalf of the Government on Thursday, but the Leader of the House and the Prime Minister for the enactment which they now propose and which we fully and willingly accept.
§ Mr. WIGNALL
I have no apology to make for my speech on Thursday, and I have no apology to make for the vote I gave on Thursday. Although the issue has been somewhat narrowed down by the explanation of the Leader of the House, I was in no doubt whatever as to what was meant when we went through the Division Lobby, because the amended Amendment of the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) made it perfectly clear what we were voting upon. I welcome this opportunity to say that there was no desire on my part or on the part of my colleagues to create friction or misunderstanding between this nation and our Allies on the question of reciprocity. We have heard about the number of certificates that have been issued by the Board of Trade to the French shipmasters. How many certificates have been issued by the French Government to our British shipmasters? Can you tell us? I am informed that there is not a single one in existence, and the reason for that Ts that it is of no value, because the compulsory pilotage dues that have to be paid at French ports, whether you have a pilot or not, makes all the difference. We conic back to the one issue—of what can be saved by abolishing the need for taking on hoard a pilot. I see clearly that the sense of the House now is to accept the narrow issue involved, and it is so narrow that it is hardly worth quibbling or quarrelling about. I suppose the Government have been saved and our honour has been vindicated. At the commencement of the Debate on Thursday there was no question of an issue between England and France. It was "all aliens." If you read your own Amendment, and if you read the Clause in the Pilotage Act of 1913, it is clear that "all aliens" are concerned.
338 That put the spirit of fight into us, and we have brought you to your bearings, at any rate.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I do admire the way in which, for the public benefit, the whip was cracked and they all came to heel. Beautifully stage managed ‡ After all, we are the House of Commons, and we might perhaps inquire what was the quid pro quo for the beautiful docility of the alien hunters which we see to-day. The Press has told us. They defeated the Government, but they have been to Downing Street, and they have reversed their policy and accepted that of the Government. What did the Government give them in order to get this acquiescence? That is what we want to know; that is what the House of Commons have a right to know. I am told that they did not even get a cup of tea, it is not a question of knighthoods or cups of tea, it is a question of public importance. When this Bill came down from the Committee, the Government, represented by the Home Office, definitely, in face of the recommendations of the Committee, decided that it would he intolerable if certain Clauses passed in Committee were brought into law. There are Clauses 7 and 8. Clause 7 deals with aliens changing their names, and Clause 8 deals with the deportation of all former enemy aliens in this country. The Home Office, which, after all, has in its permanent officials some glimmerings of Liberalism left, decided that it would be intolerable, and that the English name would be dragged in the mud if this provision for deporting all enemy aliens went through. [HON. MEMBERS: "Agreed, agreed ‡"] I know you are agreed about it, but I am not. If all the English-born wives of enemy aliens are to be deported, because the hon. Member for York (Sir J. Butcher) happened to heat the Government on a snap Division, it will be a scandal in English history What would happen if the same sort of legislation were introduced in other countries? The Home Office and the Home Secretary knew that these Amendments put in in Committee upstairs could not stand, and six of these Gentlemen went to Downing Street. [HON. MEMBERS "Nine ‡"] Nine? More dangerous still. The nine went to Downing Street and they bargained with the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has not attended the Debates on this Bill, and he has probably never heard of Clause 7, 339 but, wishing to have harmony in the House, he agreed to whatever was proposed.
We were told in the Press on Saturday morning, in the "Times,'' which is always well-informed, in the "Manchester Guardian," and the "Daily News," that a bargain had been come to at Downing Street, and the bargain was that the Home Office were to remove the embargo from Clause 8 and allow the deportation of all former aliens, except those licensed by the Home Secretary. That is what the alien hunters and Jew baiters have been pressing for. Now they have got their way. Speaking in the name of those who supported the Government in the Division on Thursday—and there are many others who voted for the Government because they wished to back them up, and they did stand up against the alien hunters—for they did stand up against them once or twice—we have a right to protest now. When the Government did stand up against these Jew baiters we did back them up, and now they come to terms with them and sell the whole pass. I think the Government should consider a third alternative before they bring this Bill on again. This Bill is dishonouring to the English name, and if the Prime Minister has read it he will know that it is. He knows perfectly well that these anti-alien Bills arc the only legislation a Tory Government can bring forward. Tie has only to read through the provisions of this Bill to know that every fibre in his body is against the whole thing. The Bill is a disgrace to us. It is a piece of reactionary legislation. It is a Bill which history will hold up as an example of what was done in the way of panic legislation by English gentlemen after the War. I do beg the Government to consider what to do in this situation, and to consider the alternative of dropping this Bill and allowing these Jew baiters to yap. They will always come to heel, believe me, for they dare not face the country.
§ Colonel YATE
I understand that this Amendment. refers solely to cross-Channel traffic, hut there, is no mention of cross-Channel traffic in it, and I would ask the Leader of the House if it would not be better to put in the words "cross-Channel traffic," to show that it is limited to cross-Channel traffic. Perhaps when this Bill goes to the other House the Government will consider the advisability of 340 meeting the views of the House in regard to undesirable aliens, and see if something cannot he done to get rid of undesirable aliens.
§ Mr. STEWART
Can the Leader of the House see his way to print and publish as a White Paper the Convention upon which the Home Secretary has founded his Amendment? The Government were defeated in July on this point, and at the end of October they were not at all clear, according to the statements made from the Front Bench last Thursday, as to what the Convention really was. I think it would be much better for the country and the pilots if the actual wording of the Convention were known.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
The question raised by my hon. Friend (Mr. Stewart) shows how difficult it is to make one's meaning clear. In the statement I have made I said there was no Convention. What happened was that negotiations resulted in an agreement, and the French Government accepted as a statement of that agreement the terms of the Pilotage Act of 1913, so that there can be no Convention, and it is quite unnecessary to print any White Paper. In regard to the point raised by the hon. and gallant Member [Colonel late), this Amendment is not merely limited to cross-Channel traffic. It is limited to those who have the privilege now under existing arrangements, and applies to two ports, and not merely to cross-Channel traffic. Therefore, we could not put in the words "cross-Channel." The right hon. Gentleman [Sir D. Maclean) asked about a memorandum from Mr. Justice Younger. It is not a memorandum by Mr. Justice Younger's Committee. At the request of the Home Secretary Mr. Justice Younger did make a statement to him, not on the case we are discussing now, but on the case referred to by the right hon. Gentleman. We should not readily make public documents given for a particular purpose to particular Ministers. There is a further objection, and that is that if a section of the House did not agree with the views of Mr. Justice Younger nothing would be more undesirable than that the words of a judge should be used in ordinary party controversies. I will, however, consult the Prime Minister in regard to the matter.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
If it was simply a report from Mr. Justice Younger I shall not press for it. I thought it was an agreed memorandum from the Committee.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
Will the Leader of the House tell us whether any bargains have been made with Members of the House?
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I do not think that the House would want me to go into that. Why should we? Does the right hon. Gentleman really suggest that the Prime Minister or I, as Leader of the House acting for him, may not be at liberty to consult any Member of the House we like?
§ Mr. ADAMSON
That is not the point. The point I was putting is: has the Prime Minister or the Leader of the House entered into a bargain with these Gentlemen?
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
No. What has happened has happened, I believe, in the case of every contentious Bill that has ever gone through the House of Commons. Ministers in charge have consulted, in regard to particular Amendments, those who are chiefly interested in pressing those Amendments. That is all that was done.
As one of those who supported the Government in the Debate on Thursday night—it is not very often that I have supported the Government since I came here, and, as a rule, when I have, they have been defeated—I do think that some injustice has been clone in this Debate to the right hon. Gentlemen who were in charge of the Bill on Thursday night. The impression produced, or intended to be produced, in the House this afternoon is that the whole of this situation would have been cleared up by a fuller and clearer explanation being given by the right hon. Gentleman who leads the House. That is an entire travesty of the situation. The situation was perfectly understood on Thursday night, and we had a speech by the hon. Member for Bristol, who has admitted that. A great deal has been said during the week of the way in which the right hon. Members who were in charge of the Bill on Thursday night led the House, and it has been suggested that they misled the House. That is not true. Naturally they did not attempt to make any deals with the Opposition, but they did place the issue fully and squarely before the House, and I think that every 342 Member of the House understood what was the point upon which he was voting. I quite agree that the Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Bonar Law) is perfectly correct when he says that no Member, whether he voted against the Government or not, had any desire or intention in the slightest degree to offer any affront to the great French people. That is perfectly true. It is also, perfectly true that the 122 Members of the House who voted against the Government were, as he says, its firm friends and supporters, and had no desire that their votes should place the Government in a difficult position, and I can quite understand that they are very anxious that the matter should not be discussed, and that the vote should be passed with very little debate. But the fact is that the House is not being treated frankly.
We know perfectly well that much more has gone on than has been told us this afternoon, and the submissiveness of the 122 Gentlemen who voted against the Government and the way in which they and the Government have accepted the situation show that there is more than is contained in the explanation given by the Lord Privy Seal. Why are we not proceeding with the Bill? Why is the Bill postponed for a week? It will be surprising if, when the Bill is proceeded with, we do not find that the Government is withdrawing from the stand which it proposed to take before Thursday night. We shall see. Wait and see. I want to take my stand with the hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) in the courageous attitude en this whole question. The Division on Thursday night gave the Government. a great chance. They might have dropped the Bill, which is one which will do no credit to the English Statute Book. It is a Bill which cuts athwart the whole of the policy that can alone save the world. We have got the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord H. Cecil) going through the country at the present time, holding great meetings and gaining au enthusiastic public response to the policy of the League of Nations, and this is the time at which this House is called on to deal with a Bill of this sorry kind which cuts at the policy of the League of Nations. How are we ever going to get the League of Nations if we are going to—
I simply wish to put on record my opinion that we have not been treated frankly this afternoon. The whole of the circumstances attending the negotiations of the Government with the Members who opposed them on Thursday night have not been made known to the House, but I have not the slightest doubt that it will all come out within the week and that we shall know fully and exactly what was done.
§ Lord H. CECIL
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will ascertain from Mr. Justice Younger whether he has any objection to having his memorandum laid before the house? I am sure it would be of great value.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I am sorry that the Noble Lord has misunderstood the question of my hon. Friend. What has been referred to is a private memorandum from Mr. Justice Younger for the use of the Home Secretary, and I doubt whether it would be wise to lay that, but a Report has been sent in which only reached the Home Secretary this afternoon, and I am inclined to think that that ought to be laid. If a question is put to me or the Home Secretary to-morrow a definite answer will be given.
Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I beg to move, "That further consideration of the Bill, as amended, be now adjourned."
Question put, and agreed to.
Bill, as amended (in the Standing Committee) to be further considered upon Monday next.