HC Deb 16 May 1922 vol 154 cc224-8
46. Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

asked the Prime Minister which Members 'f His Majesty's Government have visited Genoa in an official capacity since the commencement of the Conference there; and whether the Colonial Secretary is attending, or will attend, the Genoa Conference or visit Genoa in an official capacity?

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN (Leader of the House)

The following Members of His Majesty's Government have visited Genoa in an official capacity in connection with the Conference:

  • The Prime Minister.
  • The Lord Chancellor.
  • The Chancellor of the Exchequer.
  • The Secretary of State for War.
  • The Parliamentary Secretary, Department of Overseas Trade.
The Secretary of State for the Colonies has not attended the Conference, and does not propose to visit Genoa.

47. Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

asked the Prime Minister whether any statement can be made on the progress of the negotiations between Russia and the other nations assembled at Genoa; whether the suggestion of any public or international loan to Russia for reconstruction purposes has been put forward at the Conference; whether His Majesty's Government's representatives at Genoa have rejected this proposal; and whether an opportunity can be given for a discussion in this House before negotiations at Genoa are broken off?


I do not think that I can usefully make any statement as to the progress of the negotiations at the present stage. The answer to the second and third parts of the question is in the affirmative. As regards the last part, I have already said that I hope to find an opportunity for a statement by the Prime Minister shortly after his return to this country, and to provide facilities for a discussion on that occasion.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

Is the right hon. Gentleman in a position to say when the Prime Minister expects to be back?


No, Sir, I have no information as to that.

Lieut.-Colonel MURRAY

Is it the case that the United States Administration definitely refuse to attend the Conference at the Hague?


I have not been so informed. The only information I have on the subject is drawn from the Press, and is exactly to the contrary effect.


When the statement is made by the Prime Minister, will an interval be allowed for its consideration before the House is called upon to discuss it?


No, Sir, that is not what I have been asked to do hitherto. What I have said is that I will endeavour to arrange, at the earliest convenient opportunity after the Prime Minister has returned, that he should make a statement giving an account of his mission to Genoa, which it would then be open to the House to discuss. I do not think I can provide an unlimited number of days.


Will the right hon. Gentleman lay Papers dealing with the whole subject before the discussion takes place?


I am not in a position at present to lay any Papers, but I have no doubt that I shall be in a position, or the Government will be in a position, to do so presently. The House, however, must make up its mind as to what it desires. Hitherto I have been pressed that at the earliest possible moment a statement shall be made and a discussion allowed. If that is what the House wishes, I will endeavour to arrange it. If, on the other hand, they want Papers and an interval for consideration, I will endeavour to meet their wishes in that respect. But they must not ask me for a day for a statement and a preliminary discussion, then for an opportunity for consideration and another discussion, and then for Papers and a third discussion.


I quite recognise, if I may say so, the reasonableness of what my right hon. Friend has said, but, notwithstanding that, will he endeavour to lay Papers at some time or other? My right hon. Friend will recognise that that has always been the practice of Parliament, and I am sure that he would be the last to depart from it.


I really think it would be most convenient—I speak subject to correction, because the House must understand that I cannot, when the circumstances are changing from day to day, give definite pledges—what I think would really be most convenient would be that, when the Conference is ended, certain Papers should be laid; that, as soon as those can be laid, the Prime Minister should make his statement—if the House can wait till then for his statement; and that we should have a discussion upon the Prime Minister's statement. I am not in a position to say exactly what we can do at the present time.


Do we understand that the further Conference with the Russians at the Hague may take place without this House having an opportunity of discussing the matter?

49. Lieut.-Colonel ARCHER-SHEE

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he can give any information to the House as to the proceedings at Genoa on Monday, 15th May?


I have not yet received a complete account of yesterday's discussions, but, as far as my information goes, they appear to have proceeded favourably and in an atmosphere of general agreement.

Lieut.-Colonel ARCHER-SHEE

Have the Bolshevists accepted the position that no separate treaty shall be made while the Commission is sitting at the Hague?


I cannot say.


Has my right hon. Friend's attention been called to a statement made by the editor of the "Observer," who is in close communication with the Prime Minister, to the effect that the Entente is dead, and has been killed by M. Poincaré, and can he describe that as a "malicious invention"?


I did observe the statement. I cannot challenge the accuracy of my hon. Friend's quotation, for I have only my memory to trust to of what I read, but I did observe the statement to which I think he refers, and it was prefaced by words which he has omitted, and indeed has endeavoured in his question to give the opposite impression. They were words disclaiming the right of Mr. Garvin, the editor of the "Observer," to be in any sense the mouthpiece of the Prime Minister.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

Is it not the case that Mr. Garvin praises every action of the Prime Minister while the "Times" does not?


No, that is not the case. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman reads the "Observer" with the attention it deserves, he will know that the editor has expressed considerable disapproval of the Prime Minister several times quite recently.


Will my right hon. Friend answer the last part of my question, whether this statement is a malicious misrepresentation?


I do not know whether it is a malicious misrepresentation, but it is, as I understand, an expression of the views of the editor of the "Observer." It is not an expression of the views of the Prime Minister or His Majesty's Government. When similar views were imputed to the Prime Minister I denied them on his behalf categorically in this House.