HC Deb 06 April 1922 vol 152 cc2395-7
31. Mr. HOGGE

asked the Prime Minister whether he has any statement to make with reference to the interview he had with the representative of the "Westminster Gazette" in Paris, which appeared in the newspaper on the 31st March, 1919?

The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Lloyd George)

I have no recollection of having any conversation at that time with the representative of the "West- minster Gazette" on the subject of the Peace Treaty; but at this distance of time it is difficult to recall the names of those with whom I discussed that subject in 1919. Therefore I am not prepared to say that I did not have a conversation.

It was only yesterday for the first time that I read the full text of the interview in question, thanks to the courtesy of the Editor of the "Westminster Gazette," who was good enough to supply me with a copy of the article. As a representation of my opinions at any time it contains grave inaccuracies and omissions of essential qualifications. I observe that it purports to give at great length, not the effect of the conversation, but the actual words used by the authority interviewed. They are given in inverted commas. It is usual among reputable journalists on such occasions not only to inform the person with whom the conversation takes place that the interview will be published, but to furnish the interviewed with an opportunity of seeing what is to be published, with a view to correction. This course was not adopted in this case. Unless a full shorthand note be taken at the time—and that, I feel certain, was not done—the memory of the best journalist is apt to be at fault. In this ease there are serious errors which I should certainly have corrected had the usual method been pursued. I observe that I am supposed to have challenged the reliability of this interview at the time in the House of Commons. But, although I must have repeatedly seen this journalist since this challenge, he has never, either orally or in writing, said a word to me about it.


In view of the remarkable coincidence between the phraseology of the interview and the Memorandum which the Prime Minister himself circulated to the Peace Conference five days before the interview was given, did no one on his staff draw his attention to it?


I have no recollection of that at all, but there were so many newspaper articles that it would have taken far more time than any member of my staff could possibly devote to it to read all the articles; and may I just say that, if the hon. Member will look at the two, he will find that there are very, very serious discrepancies.


Where are they?


I need only give one, on the very important question of reparations. On the question of reparations, if the hon. Member will look at my Memorandum and at what appears in this document, there are very serious discrepancies. For instance, in this document it says that I propose to confine reparations merely to the question of material damage. I never took that view. I always thought that pensions ought to be included—always. It was my contention, throughout the whole of the Peace Conference, that pensions ought to be included, and they were included; but this interview said that I deliberately confined it to material damage. I never could have said that.


Does the right hon. Gentleman recollect that when the Debate took place in the House of Commons in 1919, that article in the "Westminster Gazette" was given as the basis of the telegram that was sent to him, and did he not look at the article afterwards?


As a matter of fact I read that particular episode, and I at once said that that article could not have been the basis. As a matter of fact, I knew that it was not the basis at all. I knew that it was another communication of a totally different character from a different quarter. That is all I said at the time—that that article could not have been the basis; nor was it the basis.

Major WOOD

How was it possible for the right hon. Gentleman to repudiate the article if he had never seen it?


My recollection is—and here again it is very difficult when one is talking about something which happened three years ago—my recollection is that there was a quotation from that article which had reference to reparations. I repudiated that, and I still repudiate it. I say that that article gives a thoroughly erroneous view of the opinions which I held on the question of reparations, and which I adhere to.