HC Deb 28 February 1938 vol 332 cc861-86

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Captain Margesson.]

9.40 p.m.

Mr. Attlee

I desire to raise this evening the question of the position of the Foreign Secretary not being a Member of this House. Let me say at the outset that I am not questioning in any way the qualifications of Lord Halifax for the position of Foreign Minister. We all know his great services, his high character and his great abilities. The Prime Minister no doubt selected the man who, he thought, was best fitted for this position, and it is not for us to question that; indeed, I am bound to say that I fully recognise the great difficulty in which the Prime Minister found himself. It would be very difficult for him to find somebody who was qualified by experience and ability to hold the position and was at the same time a supporter of his policy. Between those who had held the office already and had not been a conspicuous success, and those who were thought not likely to be successful, the choice was somewhat narrow.

I am not raising this upon a personal issue at all, but upon what I believe has grown to be a constitutional practice. We all know that we have not a written Constitution but that there do grow up from time to time practices which, when once they have become established, are practically unchangeable. It is difficult to say at any time when some particular piece of constitutional practice becomes fully established. We now have for the first time since 1923, except for a very brief period in 1931, a Foreign Secretary who is not a Member of this House. There is no law laying it down that a Foreign Secretary must be a Member of this House, and there is equally no law laying it down that the Chancellor of the Exchequer must be a Member of this House. Indeed, when we discussed recent legislation in regard to Ministers, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer pointed out an occasion on which there had been a Chancellor of the Exchequer in another place; but it is quite unthinkable that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should be in another place to-day. Up to the opening of the present century and more often than not, I think, the Prime Minister of this country has been a Member of another place. Gradually there has been built up the practice of the Prime Minister of this country being a Member of the House of Commons. I suggest that you can see that practice growing and that you can see it confirmed and becoming something more than a mere practice.

On the resignation of Mr. Bonar Law, the present Lord Baldwin was preferred to Lord Curzon, despite the great services, the seniority and the greater claims of Lord Curzon. If hon. Members look at the life of Lord Curzon by the present Secretary of State for India they will see it set out there: The decision of the King that since the Labour party constituted the Official Opposition in the House of Commons and is not represented in the Lords, the objection to a Prime Minister in the other Chamber is insuperable. Thereupon, that constitutional practice became firmly established.

It is my contention that the reasons for having a Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in the House of Commons are very compelling, and that this departure from practice at the present time is very deplorable. We are living in a time of very great tension in foreign affairs and when there are deep divisions in this country upon foreign policy—divisions that transcend the divisions along the usual party lines, divisions that are quite wide throughout the country, on the proper conduct of foreign affairs. I think that, when that state of things exists, it is more important than at any other time that there should be a Minister for Foreign Affairs in this House and responsive to public opinion. There is another reason in the fact that the whole principle of democracy is being assailed in the world to-day, and, therefore, we should take the utmost care that the popularly-elected House should keep a close watch and control over foreign policy.

It has been suggested that there is a particular advantage, in difficult times, in the Foreign Minister not being a Member of this House. It is said that it relieves him of strain, that he is spared confrontation with the popularly elected Members. I believe that to be definitely wrong. An admirable statement on the subject was made by the present Colonial Secretary, speaking in this House on 15th May, 1919—[Interruption]—he had just returned from the Great War. He was, I am sure, particularly impressed with the causes that led up to the War, and he said: It is absolutely essential that this House should realise that it alone is responsible for the conduct of foreign affairs. Looking through the Debates of that period, I find that that point was made again and again. It was made by no less a person than Mr. Bonar Law, in a Debate only a few weeks after that statement. The present Colonial Secretary, fresh from his war experience, went on to point out that the dangers of 1914 had arisen because Members of this House were not sufficiently well acquainted with the position of this country.

Mr. Churchill

After Sir Edward Grey had been for 10 years Foreign Secretary in this House.

Mr. Attlee

I am not dealing with that specific point; I am controverting the idea that there is some particular virtue in having someone who is not brought into contact with this House. I think it was a dereliction of duty on the part of the House of Commons that it only had three Debates on foreign affairs in all those years before 1914, and I agree with the Colonial Secretary in thinking it unfortunate that the idea, which some Members still hold, had grown up that the Foreign Secretary could be left to carry on without being brought into contact with public opinion. Dealing with the start of the War, the present Foreign Secretary, in May, 1919, went on to say: There has not been that mutual confidence between the Foreign Office and the House of Commons which can only come by more Foreign Office debates, by fuller answers to questions, by more information and by more consultation and co-operation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th May, 1919; cols. 1850–51, Vol. 115.] At that time the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister were away at the Peace Conferences, and the Foreign Office was in charge of Lord Curzon, while this House was left to an Under-Secretary. The period after the Great War was certainly a period when discussion of Foreign Office affairs was needed, but the right hon. Gentleman was making the point that there was also needed a full discussion of foreign affairs in peace when there was any threat of war, and I suggest that, to use the words of the Prime Minister last week month after month we have seemed to be getting nearer to war. That bears out the point that it is necessary that this House should be kept in close contact with foreign affairs.

The Prime Minister has recognised this, and I freely grant that he recognises that this House cannot be left to an Under-Secretary, who is not able to speak on policy, but can only speak, practically, to a brief. The Prime Minister has taken over the responsibility of answering major questions on foreign affairs, but that has its danger, too. It brings a great danger of duality in the conduct of foreign affairs, and we have seen signs of this duality already. Members who were in the House during the period just after the War will recollect that it was said that at that time there were two Foreign Offices, one on either side of Downing Street. The one was the Foreign Office, and the other was somewhere in the garden of No. 10. I have here a report of a speech by Lord Curzon in which he pointed out the very grave disadvantages of having two Foreign Offices. He said: When we have a Prime Minister with the peculiar gifts and equipment of Mr. Lloyd George, who is rather addicted to irregular methods, there is no doubt that such a man, when Prime Minister, exercises an unusual influence on foreign affairs. But the state of affairs which thus arises is in its essence abnormal and unsound. He was speaking of interference by the Prime Minister in foreign affairs, so that in fact there were two heads of foreign affairs. He went on to say: We have seen it once or twice before in our history. If you read the life of Lord Beaconsfield, you will see that in the concluding years of his administration much the same situation arose, when Lord Derby was Foreign Secretary. But it is bad because it means that some work is done twice over, that some is done behind the backs of the Foreign Office, and some is attempted by irresponsible outsiders. Such a position is inconsistent with our old traditions in, this country. It produces confusion at home, and it is likely to be a source of weakness abroad. That speech was made in November, 1922, after Lord Curzon had had a very full experience of being Foreign Minister in the other House and having a Prime Minister who took an active part in foreign affairs in this House. I suggest that there is that great danger, and that, where you have that duality, almost inevitably the effective control of foreign affairs must slip into the hands of the Minister who has to face this responsible House. In the other House there is not that constant survey of foreign affairs, but only an occasional debate. In this House, howevre, there are questions, statements and debates, and I suggest that, if we now have anything like this duality, the effective control of foreign affairs will be in the hands of the Prime Minister.

While it is impossible that in this House we should not have a responsible Minister, I think we are running into the danger of getting that duality and two Foreign Offices. We ought to have in this House a Minister who is fully seized of foreign affairs, whose duty it is to have a full knowledge, and who is, therefore, able to answer with authority and to take responsibility. I am afraid that the present arrangement, with a Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in another place, will either result in duality of control of foreign affairs or in removing foreign affairs from the purview of this House. This is no time for foreign affairs being taken away from the purview of this House. The decisions that are to be made to-day are decisions that may be absolutely vital to the future of this country and to the future of peace, and it is desirable, in my view, that the Foreign Secretaryship should be held by someone who is himself an elected representative and who will be in close and constant contact with the elected representatives of the people.

9.55 p.m.

Sir Archibald Sinclair

I take the view that, as a general rule, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs should, for the reasons which have been so cogently argued by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, be a Member of this House. Never was there a time when public interest throughout the country was so keen as at present in foreign affairs, and never was there a time when determination was so strong that there should be democratic control of foreign policy. Moreover, the primary function of this House is to control the finances of this country, and they are to a large extent conditioned by the success of the Government in handling foreign affairs. Nevertheless, there is, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, no constitutional law against the Foreign Secretary being in another House, and I cannot help thinking that there may arise occasions when the best man available happens to be a Member of another House. It may be a good thing that there should be that flexibility in our constitutional arrangements which will, in those very exceptional circumstances, make it possible for the Government to appoint a man from another place.

The Leader of the Opposition has said, very fairly, that he was raising a question of constitutional theory; but there must be in our minds the very practical question as to who, at this crisis in the affairs of our country and of Europe, is the best man to handle what the Leader of the Opposition so truly said are questions which are vital to the future of our country and the peace of the world. I think there can be no dispute in any part of the House that Lord Halifax, by his character and attainments, and by his recent experience in foreign affairs, does command the confidence of Members of this House, and I do not believe there is any Member of this House—[Interruption]—I really do not think that even those hon. Members who interrupted me then would interrupt me if they appreciated the point I am going to make. I do not say, for one moment, that there is confidence in the policy which Lord Halifax is going to be deputed by the Government to carry out; but the Government having decided to carry out a particular policy, Lord Halifax is the man who does command the confidence of the House, and I do not think there is a man whose confidence he would command more than he does that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Gorton (Mr. Benn) who worked with him for a considerable time, in cordial co-operation, when he was at the India Office.

Mr. Benn

I did work for two years in the most cordial co-operation with Lord Halifax, but that is perfectly irrelevant to this issue. This Debate has nothing to do with the merits of Lord Halifax; it is concerned with the rights of the House of Commons; and I am amazed to see the leader of the Liberal party get up to advocate the reversal of a policy for which Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman stood so strongly.

Sir A. Sinclair

I made it plain that I was very far from advocating the reversal of a practice which I consider very necessary: that the Foreign Secretary should be a Member of this House. I think that the handling of foreign affairs is a matter on which this House has the duty to keep the closest supervision. But, the Government having embarked on this policy, it is necessary that the handling of our foreign relations should be left to the best man available. I would ask the Leader of the Opposition, or the right hon. Gentleman who interrupted me, which member of the Government he would prefer to Lord. Halifax for this position? That is a very practical question. There is, for example, the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but I believe that not the keenest student of foreign policy would wish the Chancellor of the Exchequer to leave the superintendence of our national finances. There is the Secretary of State for the Home Department, whom I see in his place; but I have such a keen recollection of the result of his visit to Paris, that I would not wish him on behalf of this country to go to Canossa or Rome. There is the Minister of Transport, whom I see in his place; I do not think that he should be transported to the Foreign Office.

I do not think the Prime Minister could have made a better choice than Lord Halifax—and I rather think the Leader of the Opposition made that point—out of the people available, to carry out this policy. I do not think it would be possible, for one moment, for this House to contemplate the representation of the Foreign Office by an Under-Secretary; but the Prime Minister has undertaken to answer in this House for the policy which he himself has initiated, and to accept any challenge, either in Debate or in questions. The Leader of the Opposition said that that introduced duality; but I remember numerous speeches in this House in which the Leader of the Opposition has denounced—and I have supported him strongly—the duality in foreign policy of which this Government has already given us examples. That was at a time when both the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister were in the House of Commons. That arrangement is no guarantee against duality in policy. The Leader of the Opposition said that the result of this arrangement would be that the Prime Minister would be in effective control of policy. I agree; and we have the Prime Minister in this House to answer to us for foreign policy.

I want to make it clear to the Prime Minister that I dislike his policy and that I shall remain a keen opponent of it; yet I should like to pay this genuine tribute to him, that undoubtedly he has shown personal courage in making this decision. He has argued for it in three speeches in two days; and he has shown courtesy to other Members in not only speaking himself, but in listening to speeches from all parts of the House. I hope he will not be offended at my giving him these blunt but genuine compliments, or think it humbug, because I want to make it perfectly clear that I am, and shall remain, a firm opponent of the policy for which he stands. Therefore, I shall treat him, and I shall expect him to treat me in these controversies, with the full rigour of the game, but I would say, let our controversies be on main issues, the vital and big issues of policy which the Prime Minister's new departure and the ex-Foreign Secretary's resignation raise. Do not let them be on these comparatively minor issues.

If there is a vote to-night I shall cast none which might be—[Laughter]—I am surprised at this hilarity from hon. Members above the Gangway who talk about sitting on the fence. They were the hon. Members who sat on the fence when the Estimates for the military forces were introduced. I was saying that if there is a vote, I shall cast none which might be interpreted or misinterpreted as support in any degree for the Government's policy, but as the Prime Minister has accepted full responsibility to this House for his policy, and as he has undertaken to answer any challenges that may be offered to it, I will not attempt to limit his choice of the best Foreign Secretary whom he could find to carry out his policy.

10.8 p.m.

Mr. Churchill

There is clearly no serious constitutional issue raised to-night. I find myself in very general agreement with my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Liberal party on this particular point, and much that he said in his speech, I think, commended itself to the House. There is only one word of advice which I would venture to offer him, with great respect to a party leader, and that is the old Scotch proverb: Don't try to beat twa dogs at ane time. I hope that I shall not fall into that error myself, though I may travel rather near it. The British Constitution was not made yesterday. Certainly, the great men that I have met in my life long years ago would never have been shocked at the idea of a Foreign Secretary in the House of Lords. They would have been very much shocked at a Foreign Secretary in the House of Commons. There was the great Lord Salisbury. Mr. Gladstone, who knew just as much about the House of Commons as the Leader of the Opposition, and was just as strong an advocate of the rights of this House, and a great master of Constitutional Law never headed the Cabinet without a Foreign Secretary in the House of Lords. I remember well the late Mr. John Morley, than whom no one was a greater champion of the rights of this House, was entirely agreeable to the idea of Lord Rosebery being Foreign Secretary while he (Mr. Morley) occupied an important office in this House. There is no constitutional issue in it at all. But hon. Gentlemen opposite will say—and I want to argue this question in a very few minutes in the same mood of serious reasoning which characterised the speech of the Leader of the Opposition—that times are very different now from what they were in the days of Lord Salisbury and Gladstone. They are different, but what is the principal change? The principal change is that owing to the extension of the franchise and the destruction of the Liberal party and other circumstances—I do not want to be controversial—the Conservative party has become far stronger than it used to be in those days. They were days of jeopardy and great anxiety, but in these days, if it suffers from anything, it is from an over-superfluity of adipose strength.

So much for the constitutional issue. Let me look at this question of whether it is in some sense derogatory to the House of Commons to have a Foreign Secretary in the House of Lords. We must not have anything which is derogatory to the House of Commons. Certainly not, but when you have a Prime Minister, what is the good of worrying about the Foreign Secretary? What is the point of crying out for the moon, when you have the sun, and you have that bright orb of day from whose effulgent beams the lesser luminaries derive their radiance. It is no use working up a grievance on that. I do not feel that the House of Commons should have very great complaint. I am not quite so sure about the sun. There have been, I gather from the astronomers, some spots on the sun which have entailed a good deal of unseasonable worry, and some of these queer Northern Lights in the sky which presage strange events. As far as the House of Commons is concerned, whether the Prime Minister can, over a very long period of time, bear this added burden in addition to leading the House and leading the party and conducting the whole of the co-ordination of our affairs—whether he can do that is a matter for him to judge. But this I will say, that if any man tries to do more than he possibly can, the result is that some very important things get left undone.

Having touched upon these two topics—the constitutional, and whether it is derogatory to the House of Commons—let me take up this point so happily put by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Liberal party and say, "Who else would you have chosen?" If I may, I will put myself for a moment, metaphorically speaking, of course, in the position of the Prime Minister and deal with this matter and survey the talent which is placed at his disposal. Obviously, as my right hon. Friend foresaw, the mind is first attracted to the ex-Foreign Secretaries, but there, I agree, with him in respect to the Chancellor of the Exchequer we should all feel that it would be a very serious thing to interrupt his preparation of the Budget. That disposes of that. It is quite true that no such disabling preoccupation affects the Home Secretary. He has taken over a new Department in which the principal and most urgent subject is the preparation of our air-raid precautions, but there, of course, one must feel that so much of that work was done by his predecessor, and our arrangements are so far advanced that he really has to put only a few finishing touches upon the work. Therefore, he could not be liberated from his task. But I understand that there is another obstacle to the right hon. Gentleman being appointed Foreign Secretary, namely, that nothing in the world would induce him to accept the office again. Once bitten, twice shy. It is a case of the burnt child dreading the fire. That disposes of the two Ministers we would most have liked to see appointed.

There are other alternatives. There is the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, and the Minister of Health, two most able Ministers, very impressive, physically, in their different ways. If the Prime Minister had chosen my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Coordination of Defence, and if the right hon. Gentleman had been half as good at stone-walling these foreign countries when they come along asking for our Colonies and our cash, as he is in stonewalling questions from all parts of the House in regard to Defence, he would have acquitted himself admirably. But there he is, absolutely fixed upon his task. Having revived our Defences, coordinated them and brought this great matter into a thoroughly satisfactory position, with the assistance of only a single secretary and a lady typist, I think it would have been very inadvisable to remove him from the sphere in which the full fruition of his labours is about to be achieved.

As to the Minister of Health, I should very much have liked to see his cherubic, bland smile confronting the scowling dictators; but in his case he is absolutely necessary where he is. The fact is that we never begin to realise how good these Ministers are in their jobs until we begin to think of them for some other job. I hesitate to examine the claims of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour. He has one great qualification, and that is that if he held the office of Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs one would have the feeling that never since Cromwell would such a voice have gone out into the world of foreign affairs. I have trespassed upon the time and the good humour of the House in examining the various claims which the Prime Minister has been weighing very carefully—

Mr. MacLaren

What about your own?

Mr. Churchill

I am not eligible. It seems to me that everyone who looks at this matter fairly and gives reasonable consideration to the difficulties of the Prime Minister must feel that there was no solution to be found in any of the candidatures to which I have referred.

Then we come to the question of the convenience of business. I do not hesitate to say that the convenience of business at this juncture would not be injured by a Foreign Secretary in the House of Lords. I yield to no man in my desire to see this surviving free assembly, one of the only free assemblies in Europe, maintaining all its old rights and even adding to them from time to time, but if the House of Commons thinks that it is going to be able to superintend the conduct of foreign affairs and the control of foreign affairs from day to day by an unending series of interrogatory pin-pricks, it will make a very great mistake, and will lessen, and not increase, the influence of this House upon foreign affairs.

If this House wishes to keep its control over foreign affairs it would be far better to have fewer and longer debates. I should like to see us revert to the practice of Parliament in bygone generations, when carefully-drawn Resolutions were proposed, not like the Resolution proposed the other evening by hon. Members opposite, but carefully considered and reasoned Resolutions met by equally carefully-considered Amendments, and after a full debate a definite position taken up by the House which the whole country could follow, and which Europe could follow and understand. Then in the intervals between these debates great latitude should be given to the Ministers to exercise themselves within the limits prescribed by Parliament and affirmed by a majority of the House. In that way I am sure the House can gain in power to control and influence the course of foreign affairs. The curse of to-day is the day-to-day views. An event occurs, excitement rises, and the Foreign Secretary is forced to make a reply, very often at a few hours' notice, sometimes at a few minutes' notice. That is not the way in which a great country is going to preserve its control and guidance over foreign affairs. I venture to say that the less a Foreign Secretary speaks the more he says. It was said that every word of Daniel Webster weighed a pound. If Daniel Webster had had to speak three times a week and answer 60 or 70 questions two or three days in the week, I am sure the currency of his eloquence and authority would have undergone an enormous depreciation.

I have only one more point to make, and it is one upon which I agree with the right hon. Gentleman opposite. There is no doubt at all that in the circumstances, the unhappy circumstances which have arisen, Lord Halifax is the man to bear this burden. No one doubts that for a moment. I would far rather see him in the collar of a great Department than exercising a vague, but very powerful, benevolent and philanthropic interest inside the Cabinet, but from outside a Department. It is right that he should bear the burden, and, for my part, having known the Noble Lord for many years, and having served with him in the same Department for two years, I have every feeling of confidence that, although I differ from his views, he will do justice to the facts and events as they are presented to him. It would be a great mistake to dismiss Lord Halifax as a sort of weak-peace-at-any-price person. He is a man, not only of integrity and high character but of force and courage, which if ultimately provoked will be found at least as lasting and as enduring as that of any man on any side of the House.

A great experiment has been launched. Personally I think it most unpromising, but I recognise that it has been launched with conviction, and that those who have launched it have paid a considerable price both in their own political interests and also, I fear, in our interests in Europe. Surely it is absolutely necessary that the experiment should be conducted by hands which are apt and inclined to carry it through, and by men who really believe in the policy they have adopted, and on the success of which they have, to a large extent, staked their reputations. I cannot feel that any other course could have been taken by the Prime Minister than the one he has taken. I cannot feel the House stands in the least injured by what has occurred. I cannot feel that the highest constitutional practice is not on this occasion in full conformity with the immediate practical needs.

10.26 p.m.

Mr. Benn

I would like to say a few words in this Debate, which is recognised to be of great importance to us as Members of the House of Commons. Let me say at once to the right hon. Gentleman the leader of the Liberal party and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) that this Debate has nothing to do with the policy of the Prime Minister and that it has nothing to do with the qualifications of Lord Halifax. If we were now estimating Lord Halifax's qualities as a statesman, I should be as well able to do that as any Member of the House. This Debate is concerned with two issues, first, the rights of this House, and, secondly, the arrangement that is proposed.

When I entered the House, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping was already a Minister, but he is quite wrong in saying that the appointment of Sir Edward Grey to this House was not an innovation. As a matter of fact, several Members of the Liberal party wished Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman to be in the House of Lords. He was unwilling to go there, because he was a House of Commons man, and he put his Foreign Secretary here, because he was a House of Commons man. It was a breach with tradition, although there had been three Commoners who had been Foreign Secretaries in the century—Lord Stanley, Lord Palmerston, and Lord John Russell. I approach this matter from the point of view of a Member of the House of Commons, tremendously proud of the position of this House. This is not a party question. Every right which we have and all the status which we have has been won by struggle. The ordinary Act of Parliament begins with the words: Be it enacted by the King's most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same. It took two centuries to get those words "by the authority of the same" put in. All through the centuries this House has been asserting its authority as representing the people. It asserted its authority by Resolution at the time of the financial struggles and on the House of Lords, issue.

There is no question but that it is essential that the person who is in charge of foreign affairs should be in touch with this body. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping said that if the Foreign Secretary is in this House he is worried by questions and badgered by interrogations, Debates and speeches. That is a matter for the individual responsibility of individual Members; certainly it is a question for control by Mr. Speaker; but that is no reason for taking away from the House of Commons control over matters that affect the lives and happiness of the people. I dismiss the interesting, amusing and long passage in which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping, by a process of elimination, indicated the real candidate for the position of Foreign Secretary.

The seriousness of the matter resides in this: Is the House of Commons, which is a living organism, to maintain direct contact with the man who is running the Foreign Office? It is not a matter of Questions, Supplementary Questions and Motions. It is a matter of life. Every feeling which we get from our constituents passes through this House to the Minister—not a remote Minister speaking to a lot of distinguished gentlemen down the corridor, but a Minister who is here, who hears what is said by hon. Members, who interpret the feelings of the people. For that reason, it is essential that the Foreign Secretary should be in the House of Commons. I am very glad that the Prime Minister did not take the view which was taken by the leader of the Liberal party. I am afraid that the National Government are considerably in advance of, and more progressive than, the Members of the Liberal party because the Prime Minister said that he recognised the propriety of having a representative of the Foreign Office in this House. [Interruption.] I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon for these remarks, but I was deeply shocked to see this retrogression in the Liberal party.

The Prime Minister said that he himself will take on the burden of answering questions in this House. Of course, if the Prime Minister were also Foreign Secretary that would solve the whole question and, from the point of view of the House of Commons, it would be a magnificent solution. But no Prime Minister can carry the double burden. Lord Salisbury could not do so, and Mr. Ramsay MacDonald could not do so; and the Prime Minister knows that it is an impossible thing. He knows what is going to happen. We are told that he is to take the important questions. What is an important question? On 27th or 28th June, 1914, the Archduke Ferdinand was murdered at Sarajevo. A Motion was moved in this House in majestic terms by Mr. Asquith as he then was. The only reference that was made in Debate to the issue then raised was a reference by Sir Edward Grey on the twelfth allotted supply day. He made only a brief reference to it, and passed on to what was regarded as the more important question of the Panama tolls. Nobody in this House saw the implications of what had happened. Was that an important question, or was it a question that could be handed over to an Under-Secretary? I assure the right hon. Gentleman that it is impossible to distinguish between an important and an unimportant question in foreign affairs. To have this kind of double job is an impossible arrangement.

Then what happened when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) was Prime Minister, and when Lord Curzon was made Foreign Secretary? I was wrong in the statement which I made on that point the other day. I was wrong by some months, because I find that Lord Curzon was actually appointed acting Foreign Secretary in January, 1919. I thought it was in 1918. He continued then until the fall of the Coalition Government. But in 1922 when the thing came to an end he made the whole position clear. He said that it was an impossible position. He said, in effect, "I am supposed to be Foreign Secretary, but a greater man whose opinion is naturally supreme, the Prime Minister, is controlling and directing and interviewing and doing this, that and the other, with the result that a job is cither not done at all or is done twice over." So that both on the ground of the strength of one man, the Prime Minister, and on the ground of cleanness and efficiency of administration, this new thing will not work. If it comes to that, I am sure that the Prime Minister in this case will find within a short time that this arrangement will have to be abandoned.

Therefore, when the right hon. Gentleman replies I would like, with my right hon. Friend's permission, to ask him to include in his reply some definite statement as to how he is going to do this. Nobody wants the small and interesting points of detailed information such as are raised here by one of my hon. Friends, from day to day, to be answered by him. Nobody wants to badger the Prime Minister. But we would like to know exactly what he proposes to do. Does he intend to be present throughout the whole of Question Time? Suppose a Private Notice Question arises, will it be addressed to him? Suppose a sudden occasion arises for a Motion on the Adjournment, will he take charge? Is it to be a temporary or a permanent arrangement? We did not suggest the arrangement. We believe the arrangement to be impracticable and impossible. At the same time, if it is to be tried, will the Prime Minister tell us in detail how it is to be done and for how long he proposes to assume this responsibility?

10.35 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Henderson

Several times during the recent Debates on Foreign Affairs hon. and right hon. Members opposite have charged Members on this side of the House with putting endless streams of questions to the Foreign Secretary. It is a pity that hon. Members opposite did not wake up to the danger of this policy during the time when the Labour Government was in office between the years 1929 and 1931, because at that time the Labour Foreign Secretary was subjected to just as much cross-examination in the way of questions and supplementary questions as was the case during recent months. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) has left the House, but I wish to say, in reply to what he said, that unless we are to understand that there is to be one law when there is a Labour Government in office and another law when the Conservative party is in office, it seems very strange to us on this side of the House that there should be any complaint from the Government benches as to the number of questions that hon. Members on this side put.

The question with which hon. Members on this side are concerned to-night, which was so ably put by the Leader of the Opposition, concerns one thing, and one thing only, and that is whether or not the Cabinet Minister who is in charge of foreign affairs should be a Member of this House. The right hon. Member for Epping referred to the fact that there has been no fundamental change since before the War. Apparently he has forgotten that during the years 1914 to 1919 there took place the worst war that has ever afflicted mankind so far, and whatever may have been the position in pre-war years, there is no doubt, in my humble opinion, that the public of this country are infinitely more interested in international questions than they were ever before 1914, because of the knowledge which has come to them as a result of their experiences during the War years and their fear as to what the future may contain. After all, with all respect to the other place, this is the place where the elected representatives of the people are sent to deliberate on matters affecting our community, and it is because we believe that the Foreign Secretary should be a Member of this House, because he is the Minister in day-to-day charge of foreign affairs, that we want to see him on the other side of this House, accepting and facing up to his responsibilities in connection with his Department.

May I say, in conclusion, that I would like to associate myself with what the Leader of the Opposition has said, that there is no question of personality in the view that we are expressing to-night, neither so far as the present Foreign Secretary is concerned nor so far as the Prime Minister himself is concerned? We believe that this is a matter of fundamental importance, and it is because we believe that it is in the interests of the public that the Foreign Secretary should be in his place to answer day by day in this House that this matter has been raised to-night.

10.38 p.m.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Chamberlain)

After the tense atmosphere and the strenuous battles of a week ago, it has been for me quite a change to-night to be able to sit back and to watch those who criticised me then in all parts of the House answering one another's criticisms. I do not know which I enjoyed more—the amusing analysis of my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) or the protest of the right hon. Gentleman opposite for the lapse from virtue of his right hon. Friend on the bench below the Gangway. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition addressed to me one question. He challenged my action as a breach of established Parliamentary practice. I did not understand that he was maintaining that position in his speech this evening, and indeed I think it would be very hard for him to maintain it. For although Parliamentary practice does from time to time tend to become established, it would puzzle anyone to say how you are to find the exact moment when establishment takes place. Unless the right hon. Gentleman opposite is to be the arbiter in the matter and to lay down when establishment has been reached, I do not know how we are to make up our minds on the subject. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Gorton Division (Mr. Benn) said that I had flouted and neglected the precedent of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, that great House of Commons man, who, when he had to appoint a Foreign Secretary, appointed a Member of this House because he himself was a Member of this House, thereby establishing a precedent which the right hon. Gentleman says we ought never to depart from.

Before the right hon. Gentleman committed himself to that statement, he would have done well to refresh his memory and perhaps to have consulted some more authoritative work to see what really happened when Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman had to appoint a Foreign Secretary. If he will do that now, he will find that in 1905, when Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, that great champion of House of Commons rights, wanted to appoint a Foreign Secretary, the man to whom he first applied was Lord Cromer. It was only when a Peer refused his offer that he turned round to the man who, I suppose, he thought was the next best available, and happened to be a Member of the House of Commons. After that destruction of the right hon. Gentleman's argument, we may leave the constitutional position.

Although the right hon. Gentleman has represented with all his usual vehemence that the merits of Lord Halifax and the qualifications for this position had nothing to do with the case, I challenge that. On the contrary, it has everything to do with it. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said it was sometimes suggested that it was much better that the Foreign Secretary should be in another place where he would not be subjected to the strain of meeting the constant questions in this House. That may have been suggested, but I have not suggested it. It is not my position at all. On the contrary, I have said that, other things being equal, it was, in my view, desirable that the Foreign Secretary should be a Member of this House where his policy could be challenged by a powerful opposition and where he would be in a position to defend himself. I said "other things being equal," but this is where we come to the qualifications of possible appointees to this position. Here I say that things are not equal. I do not say, like my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping, that I cannot find a man or several men on this bench, or off this bench, who would make admirable Foreign Secretaries. But at the present time I do not think the qualifications of any one of my right hon. Friends are as good for this particular office as those of my noble Friend. It is on that ground that I justify this choice.

Having said so much, I say that, in my opinion, it would not be right to deprive the country of the services of a man who happens to be the best qualified man to fulfil the duties of a particular office merely because he is in another place. Having appointed him, I am still faced with the difficulty that, unless some special arrangement is made, the Foreign Office can only be represented in this House by the Under-Secretary of State, who is not a member of the Cabinet and who is not qualified to speak on his own authority on large questions of policy. I agree that that is a difficulty, but I have done my best at least to mitigate it. I am offering to take upon myself the duty of answering questions of major importance and of taking part in Debates in this House upon foreign affairs.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Epping has said that the extra burden I have assumed may be too much for me; he cannot say, but suggests a doubt. But it does not seem to me, so far as Debates on foreign affairs are concerned, that there will be a great difference in future from the circumstances of the past. On more than one occasion I have had to take part in Debates in this House on foreign affairs, even though the Foreign Secretary was at the time a Member of the House, so I do not think there will be a very great change there. Of course, to undertake to answer Foreign Office questions is another matter. That certainly does mean some extra work, and to that extent that is an addition to my burden. Whether it becomes an intolerable burden will depend upon the number of questions which I am asked, and although I am not going to anticipate that hon. or right hon. Members desire to badger the Prime Minister, at the same time, seeing that I have undertaken these duties in addition to my duties as Prime Minister for the benefit of the House, I am assuming that hon. Members opposite will not try to abuse their rights and will try to confine themselves to questions to which they really think there ought to be an answer given in this House.

The right hon. Member for Gorton (Mr. Benn) asked how was I to know which are major questions and which are minor questions, and suggested that a question which appears to be a minor question may subsequently appear to be a major one. I agree that that may happen sometimes. I may, in the first instance, judge a question to be a minor question and subsequently it may turn out to be a major question. When it becomes a major question I shall be prepared to answer it myself, but if everyone thinks at the time that it is only a minor question I do not think anyone will be aggrieved if I ask the Under-Secretary to answer it. I do not think there will be any difficulty in this arrangement at all. I shall, at any rate, not try to shirk questions. I certainly should not attempt to put off upon the Under-Secretary any question which I really thought was of major importance, I should never think of doing that, and, as I am nearly always on the bench here, if any question arises which appears to turn what I thought was a minor question into a major one I shall be able to answer the supplementary questions upon the subject. The Leader of the Opposition said that it ought to be possible for somebody to answer with authority and to take responsibility. I do not know who can do that better than the Prime Minister.

Let me say that I feel that I have met all reasonable requests that have been made to me in this matter, and that the House may now rest content that, having got what at any rate most of us believe the man best qualified to fill this office, we have taken all the necessary precautions to avoid any disadvantages.

10.49 p.m.

Mr. Gallacher

I have been trying to get in in order to say a few words which I consider are of the very greatest importance. There is a constitutional question at issue, and one which ought to be faced. It is not simply a matter of this House and of how this House views the question. I want to speak for the people of this country. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] All right. At the General Election the people of this country voted for the League of Nations and for a Foreign Secretary who would carry forward a League policy. Is that right or is it not? The answer is clear. The people of this country did not vote for a man of the character of Lord Halifax. Ask Herr Hitler whom he would choose—he would choose Lord Halifax. There has been a reference in this House to a coincidence. The coincidence is that Hitler demands a change in the Cabinet, and a change in the Cabinet takes place; the Foreign Secretary who represented a League policy goes out and Hitler's man comes in. I am not taken in by all this talk about the character of Lord Halifax. I do not know whether any Members of the House are taken in by it. I am quite certain that the Cliveden set is not taken in. They know what Lord Halifax is; they know that he is a friend of the Fascists of Germany, and that he does not represent the people of this country. Nobody could suggest for a moment that as Foreign Secretary he represents in any way the desires or the peaceful intentions of the people of this country.

We have a right to demand that the Prime Minister should face up to the obligation he has taken on in making this change of policy, and should go to the country. Have not the people a right to judge on an important matter of this kind? I do not know why the Chief Whip is muttering. Let him speak up or remain dumb. I maintain that if the Prime Minister had half the character that has somehow or other been attributed to Lord Halifax, or if Lord Halifax had the character that is claimed for him, Lord Halifax himself would say this is a question in which the people of the country ought to have a say. [HON. MEMBERS "No."] Yes, surely. Did not the late Prime Minister, Lord Baldwin, go to the country and ask the people to vote for his policy, and then as everybody admits, a drastic change has taken place. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] But it has been admitted. Why did not we get this chorus of "Noes" when the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) was speaking? Why did not we get it when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) spoke about the change of policy, or when the Prime Minister himself made a speech that effectually demonstrated a change in policy? Take the statements made in this House and compare them with the Election manifesto of the National Government. The change is plain enough there—it is represented by the removal of one Foreign Secretary and the introduction of another: one is removed at the demand of Hitler, the other is put in at the demand of the Cliveden set. The Cliveden set decided that Lord Halifax should go to Berlin, and, all through, a criminal gang in Downing Street and out of it have been trying to tie this oldest democratic country up with the Fascists of Europe.

Some of them have the idea that if they pursue a foreign policy represented by Lord Halifax they will get a Four-Power Pact and get Russia isolated, but it is Britain that will be isolated. Anybody who knows the situation in Europe understands that just as the peace forces in Europe have been trying to keep Britain

associated with unity for peace, so the war forces in Europe have been trying to isolate Britain. If Britain is once isolated, the British Empire will be much more vulnerable than the Soviet Union. Please let it be understood that the betrayal that is taking place in appointing Hitler's man, Lord Halifax, to the position of Foreign Secretary is not simply the betrayal of Abyssinia or of Spain but is the betrayal of the people of this country, and that behind it is the financial gang associated with Cliveden, a gang who would sacrifice the people of this country in order to maintain their power and privilege.

Question put, "That this House do now adjourn."

The House divided: Ayes, 226; Noes, 99.

Division No. 110.] AYES. [10.57 p.m.
Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh) Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C. Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)
Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S. Cross, R. H. Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)
Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.) Davidson, Viscountess Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Davies, C. (Montgomery) Horsbrugh, Florence
Apsley, Lord Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil) Howitt, Dr. A. B.
Aske, Sir R. W. Dawson, Sir P. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)
Assheton, R. De Chair, S. S. Hulbert, N. J.
Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover) Denville, Alfred Hume, Sir G. H.
Actor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton) Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side) Hunter, T.
Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.) Dugdale, Captain T. L. Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.
Balfour, G. (Hampstead) Duggan, H. J. Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)
Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet) Duncan, J. A. L. Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth)
Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M. Dunglass, Lord Jones, L. (Swansea W.)
Baxter, A. Beverley Eastwood, J. F. Keeling, E. H.
Beaumont, M. W. (Aylesbury) Edmondson, Major Sir J. Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h) Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Lamb, Sir J. Q.
Beechman, N. A. Ellis, Sir G. Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.
Bernays, R. H. Elmley, Viscount Law, R. K. (Hull, S. W.)
Birchall, Sir J. D. Emery, J. F. Leech, Sir J. W.
Bird, Sir R. B. Emrys-Evans, P. V. Leighton, Major B. E. P.
Bossom, A. C. Entwistle, Sir C. F. Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.
Boulton, W. W. Findlay, Sir E. Levy, T.
Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart Fleming, E. L. Lindsay, K. M.
Bower, Comdr. R. T. Fox, Sir G. W. G. Lipson, D. L.
Boyce, H. Leslie Furness, S. N. Little, Sir E. Graham.
Bracken, B. Fyfe, D. P. M. Lloyd, G. W.
Brass, Sir W. Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J. Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.
Briscoe, Capt. R. G. Gluckstein, L. H. Loftus, P. C.
Brocklebank, Sir Edmund Glyn, Major Sir R. G C. Lyons, A. M.
Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham) Goldie, N. B. Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)
Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith) Grant-Ferris, R. MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury) Granville, E. L. MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)
Bull, B. B. Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester) MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)
Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L. Gratton, Col. Rt. Hon. J. Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)
Butcher, H. W. Gridley, Sir A. B. McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.
Butler, R. A. Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.) McKie, J. H.
Campbell, Sir E. T. Grigg, Sir E. W. M Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.
Carver, Major W. H. Grimston, R. V. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.
Cary, R. A. Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor) Markham, S. F.
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N. W.) Marsden, Commander A.
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n) Guinness, T. L. E. B. Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.
Channon, H. Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W. Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)
Chapman, A. (Rutherglen) Hacking, Rt. Hon. D. H. Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S. Hambro, A. V. Moore, Lieut.-Colonel Sir T. C. R.
Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead) Hannah, I. C. Moreing, A. C.
Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston) Harbord, A. Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)
Colman, N. C. D. Hartington, Marquess of Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.
Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J. Haslam, Henry (Horncastle) Munro, P.
Conant, Captain R. J. E. Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton) Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.
Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.) Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Nicholson, G. (Farnham)
Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S. G'gs) Hely-Hutchinson, M. R. O'Connor, Sir Terence J.
Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.) Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P. O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh
Cox, H. B. Trevor Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.) Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. G. A.
Orr-Ewing, I. L. Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A. Tree, A. R. L. F.
Owen, Major G. Russell, Sir Alexander Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Palmer, G. E. H. Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen) Turton, R. H.
Perkins, W. R. D. Samuel, M. R. A. Wakefield, W. W.
Petherick, M. Sandeman, Sir N. S. Walker-Smith, Sir J.
Pickthorn, K. W. M. Sanderson, Sir F. B. Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Plugge, Capt. L. F. Scott, Lord William Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)
Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton Shakespeare, G. H. Warrender, Sir V.
Procter, Major H. A. Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree) Waterhouse, Captain C.
Radford, E. A. Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A. Wedderburn, H. J. S.
Raikes, H. V. A. M. Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D. Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)
Ramsbotham, H. Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen) Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)
Ramsden, Sir E. Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe) Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Rankin, Sir R. Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J. Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)
Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin) Spens, W. P. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.
Reed, A. C. (Exeter) Storey, S. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Reid, Sir D. D. (Down) Strauss, H. G. (Norwich) Wise, A. R.
Reid, W. Allan (Derby) Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h) Womersley, Sir W. J.
Rickards, G. W. (Skipton) Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F. Young, A. S. L. (Partick)
Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool) Tasker, Sir R. I.
Ropner, Colonel L. Tate, Mavis C. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry) Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne) Mr. James Stuart and Lieut-
Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge) Thomas, J. P. L. Colonel Kerr.
Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R. Titchfield, Marquess of
Adams, D. (Consett) Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth) Nathan, Colonel H. L.
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.) Griffiths, J. (Llanelly) Naylor, T. E.
Ammon, C. G. Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.) Oliver, G. H.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel) Parker, J.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Hardie, Agnes Pearson, A.
Banfield, J. W. Hayday, A. Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.
Barnes, A. J. Henderson, A. (Kingswinford) Price, M. P.
Barr, J. Henderson, J. (Ardwick) Pritt, D. N.
Batey, J. Henderson, T. (Tradeston) Richards, R. (Wrexham)
Bellenger, F. J. Hills, A. (Pontefract) Riley, B.
Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W. Hollins, A. Ritson, J.
Benson, G. Jagger, J. Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)
Bevan, A. Johnston, Rt. Hon. T. Sexton. T. M.
Brown, C. (Mansfield) Jones, A. C. (Shipley) Silkin, L.
Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire) Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Silverman, S. S.
Cape, T. Kelly, W. T. Simpson, F. B.
Charleton, H. C. Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T. Smith, E. (Stoke)
Cove, W. G. Kirby, B. V. Stephen, C.
Daggar, G. Kirkwood, D. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill) Leach, W. Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)
Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) Lee, F. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Leslie, J. R. Tinker, J. J.
Dobbie, W. Logan, D. G. Tomlinson, G.
Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) Lunn, W. Viant, S. P.
Ede, J. C. Macdonald, G. (Ince) Walkden, A. G.
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) McEntee, V. La T. Watkins, F. C.
Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H. Maclean, N. Watson, W. McL.
Frankel, D. MacMillan, M. (Western Isles) Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)
Gallacher, W. Mainwaring, W. H. Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Gardner, B. W. Marshall, F. Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Garro Jones, G. M. Maxton, J. Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Green, W. H. (Deptford) Milner, Major J.
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. Montague, F. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Grenfell, D. R Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.) Mr. Mathers and Mr. Adamson.
Adjourned accordingly at Seven Minutes after Eleven o'Clock.