§ VISCOUNT BURY
, who rose to ask a Question having reference to the proposed Tunnel between this country and France, said, that the Question was one of importance, not only with their Lordships' House, but to the country generally. The last time he had mentioned this subject he was told by the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Earl Granville) that the matter was to be relegated for consideration to a Military Committee, which was to examine and report on the whole subject of the Channel Tunnel, and advise the Government as to the course it should pursue in order to assist them in making up their minds. He now understood, and thought he could say without contradiction as a matter of public notoriety, that the terms of reference to the Military Committee were so constructed that the Committee were prohibited from inquiring into the great, and indeed the only, point of real public interest—namely, whether the construction of the Channel Tunnel was advisable from a strategic point of view. He was told that the Committee had done what they were ordered to do—namely, to direct their attention to the question whether the mouth of the Tunnel would be defensible in case of its construction; but that was an after consideration and not of any great moment, and not nearly so important as the one which had previously been referred to. The country looked with great distrust upon the construction of the Tunnel, and those who agreed with him (Viscount Bury)—and they were very numerous both in the House and in the country—considered that the matter had been rather too much hurried over. There was a Committee appointed a little while ago by the Board of Trade on this matter. What had been done by that Committee? Where was its Report? Had it been dissolved? It was said out-of-doors—and he could be corrected, if he were wrong—that after examining one or two witnesses—two well-known military men of the highest possible reputation were under orders to attend before the Committee; but it was generally understood that those officers were entirely opposed to the construction of the Tun- 1266 nel, and suddenly their Lordships heard that the Committee itself was abandoned, and that the opinion of the officers was not taken. Now they heard that another Committee had been appointed, and they were told in the same breath that the new Committee were not to take cognizance of the only point of national interest in the whole inquiry. He hoped his noble Friend who was about to answer the Question (the Earl of Morley) would say something assuring to those who were afraid that the Tunnel was being allowed to slip out of the grasp, he would not say of the Government, but of the people of England, who had a right to a voice in the great national question as to whether or not the Tunnel should be constructed at all. If the noble Lord who usually sat on the Cross Benches (Lord Brabourne), and who had constituted himself in a special degree the spokesman of those who advocated the Tunnel, were in his place that day, he should have asked him whether he thought it consistent with the respect due to Parliament to pursue the somewhat extended system of puffing which had hitherto prevailed in connection with the subject before their Lordships? He (Viscount Bury) was told that in the other House there was a book, in which any Member of either House could inscribe his name as evidence of his desire to inspect the works of the Tunnel, and thereupon he was furnished with a free pass over the line to Dover, and a ticket for a champagne luncheon at the end of the journey. He did not mean to insinuate that that material form of advertisement would have much effect upon Members of Parliament; but he could not refrain from pointing out that in a contested election it would be considered as bribery by treating, and held to be illegal. The question of the construction of the Tunnel must be investigated in a judicial manner by both Houses, and to issue invitations to the judges in a cause was not exactly the course which ought to be pursued. He begged to ask Her Majesty's Government, Whether it is true that the Military Committee now sitting for the purpose of advising the Government on the Channel Tunnel scheme are prohibited by the terms of the reference to them from inquiring whether the construction of the Tunnel is or is not advisable from a strategic point of view; 1267 and, whether the Government will lay the terms of reference to the said Committee on the Table of the House?
THE EARL OF MORLEY
said, he was rather surprised the noble Viscount (Viscount Bury) should express doubt as to the scope of inquiry of the Scientific, not Military, Committee which was now examining into the question of defending the mouth of the Tunnel, because his (the Earl of Morley's) noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Earl Granville), in an answer which he gave about a month ago, stated very distinctly that the inquiry would be confined to the defences of the mouth of the Tunnel, and that the national question as to the advisability or non-advisability of permitting the construction of the Tunnel would be left to the military authorities and the Government to discuss after they had received the Report of the Scientific Committee. He (the Earl of Morley) could only repeat, though at somewhat greater length, the answer then given by his noble Friend. The Committee was composed entirely of scientific men, military and civil. It was presided over by Major General Sir Archibald Alison. The other Members were Major General Gallwey, Inspector General of Fortifications; Colonel Sir John Stokes, R.A. D.A.G.; Colonel Sir Andrew Clarke, Commandant of the School of Military Engineering; Mr. E. Graves, Engineer-in-Chief to the General Post Office; Mr. C. H. Gregory, C.E.; Colonel Alderson, E.A., Assistant Director of Artillery Stores; Colonel Majendie, E.A., Inspector of Explosives, Home Office; and Professor Abel, Chemist to the War Department. When he mentioned those names, it would be seen at once that the Committee was of a purely scientific character. The Committee was to make a full and exhaustive investigation from a scientific point of view, and without reference to the ulterior object of national expediency into the practicability of closing effectually the mouth of the projected Tunnel.
THE EARL OF MORLEY
Distinctly, without reference to the larger question. They were to satisfy themselves whether it was possible beyond any reasonable doubt that in the event 1268 of war, or apprehended war, the Tunnel and its approaches could be actually closed to an enemy under the existing Acts of Parliament, or under the Bill which was now being promoted. The question was to be considered in great detail. The Committee were to consider by what means—whether by destruction or obstruction, or flooding, or by works of defence or offence, or any other means—the mouth of the Tunnel could be defended. The noble Viscount said that was a subject for after consideration; but he (the Earl of Morley), on the contrary, ventured to think it was a matter for previous consideration. As soon as the Committee had reported as to the practicability or not, and the best means, of defending the Tunnel, it would be referred to the Military Advisers of the Crown to advise whether the Tunnel should be constructed on strategic grounds. He did not wish to enter into that much wider question to which his noble Friend had referred. He did not propose to lay the terms of reference to the Committee on the Table of the House. He had, he thought, explained sufficiently and fully what those terms were. They had not the slightest wish to conceal anything in the matter, and as soon as Her Majesty's Government came to a decision as to the course which they would pursue with regard to the Bills now before Parliament, they would be prepared to lay such Papers as they prudently could—some of them being of a confidential character—before Parliament. He hoped his answer would be satisfactory to the noble Lord, who justly anticipated that the terms of reference did exclude the general national question as to the advisability of permitting the construction of the Tunnel or not from the consideration of the Committee, whose examinations were confined to the scientific question which the Government considered ought to be discussed before the general question was decided by the Military Advisers of the Crown.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I do not wish to express an opinion on what the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Morley) has called "the national expediency of the matter." But as this question is undoubtedly one that does excite a good deal of feeling and speculation out-of-doors, I should wish to know more clearly what is the precise 1269 course of investigation that the noble Earl has shadowed forth? I understand that the Scientific Committee will determine, in the first place, whether the mouth of the Tunnel can be sealed or not to an enemy, and that, after that question is decided, then the military authorities of the Crown are to take the matter in hand. Is that to be in the form of a Military Committee, that will consider some ulterior question to be laid before them by the Government, or does that mean that the Military Advisers of the Crown will determine the matter in consultation with the Committee? I also desire to ask the noble Earl whether Parliament is to be called in, as a third party, to consult in respect to this matter of national expediency?
§ EARL GRANVILLE
Most decidedly, Her Majesty's Government have no intention of excluding Parliament from the consideration of this very important subject.
THE EARL OF CARNARVON
There is one other matter which should be mentioned in connection with the Report of the Scientific Committee, and it is this—I should like to know when we may look for the Report; and, whether the Bills introduced into the House of Commons will be deferred until that Report is laid before Parliament?
§ EARL GRANVILLE
It is the intention of the Government, as far as lies in their power, to prevent the Bills being proceeded with until the Government is in a position to give an opinion of its own on that subject.
§ VISCOUNT BURY
said, he was afraid he could hardly regard as satisfactory the answer of his noble Friend (the Earl of Morley). No one in his senses doubted that the Tunnel, if constructed, could be defended. The question was, whether it ought to be constructed? The danger they had to face was not the losing the Tunnel by a direct attack; but that a landing might on some occasion be effected elsewhere in the country—not near the Tunnel at all—that England might experience some reverse, and that the possession of the English side of the Tunnel might be obtained as a material guarantee from them. In that case they would be absolutely defenceless. The 1270 Scientific Committee might report that the mouth of the Tunnel would be defensible; but that would have nothing to do with the real question at issue. The main point was whether, from a military point of view, the Tunnel ought to be constructed; and that was a matter which ought to be discussed in Parliament, and ought not to be decided by the result of the inquiry now being held.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
The noble Viscount has asked a Question which I think has been fully answered. The noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury), if I may say so, showed much greater discretion in saying that he did not wish to initiate any discussion as to the merits of the Tunnel schemes.
§ VISCOUNT BURY
said, he had not entered into the merits of the Tunnel; and he intended his remarks to be taken as formal notice that he would raise the question again.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
In what I said I only wished to guard myself from expressing any opinion on a matter of which I am ignorant.
§ House adjourned at half past Six o'clock, till To-morrow, half past Ten o'clock.