HC Deb 14 February 1924 vol 169 cc1012-5
Lieut.-Colonel J. WARD

I am obliged to bring to your attention, Mr. Speaker, an incident which occurred during the Debate on Tuesday evening on the Prime Minister's Statement. That incident caused me to send the following letter to the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Wallhead): It appears from the OFFICIAL REPORT that on Tuesday night you made a maliciously untrue statement regarding my conduct whilst an officer of the British Army, and a Member of this House of Commons, in the carrying out of the duties imposed upon me as Commander of the British Forces at Omsk. It is perhaps fortunate for the order of the House that I did not hear that interjection or I should have demanded a withdrawal and apology at once. 1 think—if I remember aright—that the new Deputy-Speaker had just taken the Chair, or doubtless the Chair's attention would have been attracted to this offensive observation. Ii is only by my attention being called to it by some of my friends that I am aware of it myself. I would therefore ask yon to be in attendance to-day as I intend to bring the subject before the House and have already despatched a letter to the Speaker, a copy of which I enclose. Rather than deviate from the particulars of the actual occurrence, I think it would be well if I were now to read the statement which I have submitted to Mr. Speaker:— My attention has been drawn to a statement made by Mr. R. C. Wallhead the hon. Member for Merthyr during the Debate in the House on Tuesday last. It is unfortunate that I did not hear the remark, or I should have asked at once for the protection of the Chair, but my friends have drawn my attention to the OFFICIAL REPORT in which the hon. Member is reported to have said—addressing myself—in reference to money alleged to have been given to Admiral Koltchak, at that time Supreme Governor of Russia: You had some of it. In view of the kind of propaganda that is carried on in my constituency, and in the constituencies generally, by the party to which the hon. Member belongs it is necessary that an opportunity should be given to me to deny this accusation that I had taken any of the money paid—or alleged to have been paid—by the British Government to Admiral Koltchak. Admiral Koltchak was a high-souled Russian patriot"— [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh."] Well, he gave his life for his country, and that at any rate is something. Admiral Koltchak was a high-souled Russian patriot who would never have dreamt of attempting to corrupt a British Officer by means of money payments or in any other way, and as for the allegation contained in this statement that a British Officer could be corrupted or would, under any circumstances, while acting as the representative of his country, accept payments of any description from the Chief of another State, it is so contemptible a charge and so much at variance with the high traditions of the Service that only those entirely ignorant of the Service would dream of making such an accusation. But it so happens that I was not merely the Commander of the British Forces at Omsk during 19P'-19, but was also a Member of this honourable House and, therefore, to allege that a Member of this House, while holding any position under the Crown, had accepted money for himself which had been contributed—if contributed at all—by his Government for an entirely different purpose is an attack of such character that it cannot be allowed to pass unnoticed. I therefore request, Sir, an opportunity today of bringing the matter before the attention of the House, and to ask the hon. Member to withdraw the statement and the innuendo contained therein, or, like a man of honour, to give details and such proofs as he has for the accusation; that seems to mo the least lie can do as a Member who apparently prides himself upon the probity of his own character. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I make no apology whatever for asking the House to give consideration to this subject, which is most important, at any rate, to me personally.


I wish to assure the hon. and gallant Member for Stoke, and also this House, that the hon. and gallant Member has read into my interjection something that was not intended in any way whatever. I had not in my mind, in the slightest degree, any intention of attributing to the hon. and gallant Member anything of a dishonourable character. The question under discussion was the giving of moneys, or the paying of moneys, or the extraction of moneys from people in this country by the present Soviet Government, and I interjected that it had been done before, and that Admiral Koltchak had done it, and I further interjected that the hon. and gallant Member had had some of it, and I did that on the assumption that he was an officer in the pay of Admiral Koltchak. [HON. MEMBERS: "Prove it!"] I am saying that is my assumption. [Interruption.]


Hon. Members all round the House seem to have forgotten that in these matters of personal honour there is a tradition that we should listen to both parties without interjection. It is only courtesy to listen in silence.


I made that interjection, as I say, on the assumption that the hon. and gallant Member was serving under Admiral Koltchak. I am not going into the question whether Admiral Koltehak was the supreme ruler and governor of Russia or not, but I do not think that in that interjection or in that assumption there was any attribution of dishonourable action to the hon. and gallant Member for Stoke. It was a matter in which he had to choose for himself. Further, I wish to say it was not in my mind when I made the interjection that the hon. and gallant Member bore the Commission of His Majesty's Government. He has given me his explanation; I accept his explanation, and I want to say quite unreservedly —and I hope he will accept my statement as a bona fide one—that I had no intention of attributing anything at all dis honourable to him. I unreservedly apologise if such has been the interpretation placed upon the words I used and withdraw the statement upon which such interpretation has been placed. I hope the House and the hon. and gallant Member will accept my apology, which is a bone fide one, and I also tender to the hon. and gallant Member the hope that nothing of a detrimental character will accrue from anything I have said.

Lieut.-Colonel WARD

I am very pleased indeed to accept the withdrawal and apology of my hon. Friend, not merely for myself, but for my officers, who for nearly two years guarded property to the value of millions in Russia arid even actual money, and not a cent was ever misplaced.