§ LORD SHEFFIELD had the following Notice on the Paper—
§ To call attention to the circumstances of the internment and of the deportation of Mr. G. Tchitcherine, and to ask what agreement or understanding, if any, was come to between His Majesty's Government and the Russian Government at Petrograd as to the removal of the embargo on British subjects detained at Petrograd, and whether any undertaking was given on behalf of His Majesty's Government that the Russians at that time interned here should be set at liberty and allowed to return to Russia, and how many Russians are still at present interned in this country, and to move for any papers or correspondence relating to this subject which have passed between this Government or their representative at Petrograd and the Russian authorities at Petrograd.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I do not think that it is necessary to read my Notice of Motion because it is in your Lordships' hands, and, I will proceed at once to the facts. This case of Mr. Tchitcherine is, I think, one in which very hard and unjust treatment has been meted out to a man of honour and position who never ought to have been treated so. The Home Office made an Order for his internment on August 7, 1917. He was informed that he was to be interned on August 11, and he then represented that he was actively engaged on behalf of the Russian Government disbursing money on their behalf and having money of theirs which he must account for, and that it was impossible that his activities should be broken up. Therefore the Order was served on him on August 22, and he was interned on August 25. I should like to 176 call attention to the alleged reasons, for which he was interned. The first was that he was of hostile association because he associated with Germans at an International Club at 107, Charlotte Street, W. The other charge against him was one of anti-Ally and pro-German activities that were a danger to public safety and to the defence of the Realm.
§ As to the first charge that this was an international club. It was one of a socialist character that Mr. Tchitcherine had belonged to before the war, and it was allowed to continue. The Government had power to close it, but it remained open under the sanction of the Police, and therefore was a perfectly lawful place to frequent. I believe that the great mass of the Germans belonging to it were interned at the outbreak of the war in August, 1914. At any rate, it was in the power of the Government at any time to have interned any dangerous Germans, or to have closed the club, and it was rather late in the day on August 25, 1917, three years after the outbreak of war, to make it a charge against a man that he frequented a club where practically no Germans did attend after the war.
§ The second charge was of anti-Ally and pro-German activities which constituted a danger to the public safety and to the defence of the Realm. I think that it is one of the misfortunes of this procedure of internment that the Advisory Committee which had it in hand took no evidence, or at least did not communicate the evidence which they took to what I may call the defendant. The Committee does not allow the defendant to see the evidence which it sees. All you can say is, that not only was Mr. Tchitcherine unaware of any evidence showing that he was anti-Ally and pro-German, but he absolutely repudiates any such imputation. Mr. Tchitcherine is a man of distinction. He formerly was in the Russian Foreign Office. His family relations held important posts in Russia. He being a man of revolutionary sympathies, as many good people were in Russia in those days, left that country, and was in this country at the outbreak of war actively engaged on a Committee for befriending and helping political refugees from Russia. This continued to be his activity down to the outbreak of the Revolution. When the Revolution broke out and the Tsar was deposed Mr. Tchitcherine became an active member of a Committee 177 for repatriating Russian exiles who then were willing to go back to Russia.
§ Your Lordships know that there was a good deal of dispute while the Tsar's Government was in power. There was a proposal to coerce these men into the English Army or to deport them to Russia. That would be practically to deport them to Siberia. But when the Revolution broke out a large number of these people were ready and willing to go back to Russia, and this Committee was appointed under the sanction of the then Russian Government, and was maintained by the money of Russia, in order to repatriate these people. This remained Mr. Tchitcherine's activity up to the time that he was interned. But early in August he hail assigned to him a much more important function. The Russian Revolutionary Government got access to the secret archives of the Secret Police of the Tsar at Petrograd, and these archives disclosed in their judgment a mischievous activity on the part of the Russian Secret Police not only in connection with Russian refugees but, as they believed, in connection with Germany. Mr. Svatikoff was sent from Russia on behalf of the Russian Government. I believe that the Secret Police work was mainly organised from Paris and not from London. Mr. Svatikoff was sent from Russia to investigate further the ramifications of the actions of the Russian Secret Police, and in the course of his investigations he had reason to suspect that one person in the Russian Secret Police named Sulievanoff was not only one of the Tsar's Secret Police but also was a German spy. Svatikoff and his Committee, of course, had no power to interfere, to visit houses or search for documents in order to bring home their suspicions by means of proof. But on or about August 3 or 4 a letter was sent to Scotland Yard calling its attention to the suspicions that attached to Sulievanoff. Scotland Yard, in consequence, arrested Sulievanoff for about half an hour and then discharged him and no investigation whatever was made.
§ Mr. Svatikoff whose activities extended to Paris as well as to London, appointed Mr. Tchitcherine and another to carry on the investigations in London. want to call your Lordships' attention to the fact that at the time Mr. Tchitcherine was interned he was actively engaged in the service of the then Russian Government with whom we had diplomatic relations, 178 and that his internment cut short these operations which the Russian Government thought very important as to tracing the underhand work of the Tsar's Secret Police. Mr. Tchitcherine, like many other Russia n and social democrats, was revolutionist, or whatever you like to call him. He held very strongly what are known as international opinions—that is to say, he felt that the time had come when the nations of Europe ought to draw near together and to rest less upon national antipathies, and to bring pressure to bear upon their Governments which they thought were tainted with obsolete ideas, so as to develop more a fraternity of nations. That is very much what our Government and the American Government are now urging with a view to a conclusion of the war—namely, a League of Nation. It is quite obvious that if our policy is to develop a League of Nations to correct the animosities and jealousies of separate nations—though we may have differences as to the extent to which it is to be pushed—we cannot consider a person blameable who holds in what I may call a reasonable way international Opinion. When what we call international opinions are coupled with Bolshevist social proposals as to property and so forth, no doubt the Internationalism gets merged in another form of revolution, the social revolution, of which think very few people in this country approve, and which I should think that even in Russia, when she gets quieter, will not command such an overwhelming support.
But it is only fair that I should read what Mr. Tehitcherini himself submitted in his answer in dealing with this imputation of anti-British and pro-German propensities. This paper was submitted to the Advisory Committee. He says—
Referring to the second point, I must declare that the characterising of International Socialism, the teaching which inspires my activity and sentiments, as being presumably anti-Ally and pro-German is a total misrepresentation of its nature and aims. We, the international Socialists, oppose imperialism in its totality, alike in its British, German, or other representatives.
I need not read the next. He goes on to quote what the Committee of Delegates of the Russian Socialist Groups have resolved. It only carries out the same idea. Then he says—
The idea of the International movement for working-class emancipation from all forms of political economic and Imperiali[...]ti[...] exploitation was also put forth by the great Leeds Convention held on June 3, at which 1,300 delegates took
part, representing 207 trade councils and local labour parties, 371 trade union organisations, and over 500 other organisations. If I am to be interned, are we to expect that the hundreds of thousands of Britishers who are members of these organisations will also be interned ?
Mr. Burke said you could not draw an indictment against a nation. Equally I do not think you could intern all the active labour organisations in this country. But whether you agree with this idea that Internationalism is a thing to be encouraged at the expense of a more isolated patriotism, or whether you think it goes too far and is only to be encouraged in a temperate and moderate degree, I contend that that attitude does not justify you in imputing to a man that he is pro-German and anti-British. I think I may say of Mr. Tchitcherine that to him probably Germany and its present Government represent in its very highest degree the most odious form of bureaucratic and militarist oppression of the people of the country.
§ So much for the circumstances. May I say that after his internment there was an additional charge put in, that he was associated with Trotsky and Madame Kolontai. Trotsky is now, as you know, one of the leading men in the present Russian Government; and as to Trotsky, Mr. Tchitcherine in his answer said that he was not associated with him at all. Trotsky at the outbreak of the war was running a newspaper in Paris, and Tchitcherine, I think, at that time was in London. The French Government thought Trotsky an awkward neighbour, and cleared him out into Spain. Then the authorities in Spain put pressure upon Trotsky and told him he must clear out to America at very short notice. Trotsky found himself in Spain without any money, and made an appeal to Mr. Tchitcherine, who was in London, to enable him to go to America, and, without meeting each other, Mr. Tchitcherine in London, managed to raise the necessary funds to enable Trotsky to emigrate to America. That is the amount of Mr. Tchitcherine's connection with Trotsky during the war. I may say, as to Madame Kolontai, who is now, I am told, at the head of some high school or something of the sort in Petrograd, and who is a lady of education, that he repudiates any particular association. He says that a few letters of an ordinary character have passed between them, but nothing else.
§ To my mind these charges are so trumpery that, even if they were directed against 180 a man who was not at that moment in the service of an Allied Government, they ought not to have been considered. I cannot help thinking, as I am satisfied in some other cases of internment, that the Government have got private motives for action which are not the motives which they set forth—motives which, whether they be strong or not, will not bear statement and therefore they put forth fictitious and fanciful motives. I think Mr. Tchitcherine was of opinion that, owing to their action in tracing the Secret Police of Russia to quarters outside of Russia, and to their thinking that they would even trace them to Scotland Yard itself, Mr. Tchitcherine's investigations were becoming dangerous. I do not put that forward myself. I cannot at all say what the secret investigations were, but there is no doubt these are some of the impressions on the mind of Mr. Tchitcherine. He is now in Russia in a high post in the Russian Foreign Office and he is able to give strong effect to his views; and the more you leave the impression upon him and his friends that he has been harshly, unfairly, and unjustly treated the more you will exacerbate the relations between us and his countrymen.
§ But I do think I have a right to say this, that there was evidence in their possession that Scotland Yard was not dissociated from the Russian Secret Police. I am informed that a certain Inspector Powell was in the pay of the Russian Imperial Government and their Secret Police, and that, on the fall of that Government, Inspector Powell, his employment having ceased, sent in a demand for three months' salary in lieu of notice, and that that salary was paid him by the subsequent revolutionary Government. Of course, if Inspector Powell was receiving this salary without the knowledge of his superiors, he was guilty of an extremely improper act. I think it would be an unfortunate thing, if, with the consent of his superiors, any one of our inspectors was allowed to receive a salary from a foreign Government in connection with their Secret Political Police. But whether that be so or not, that would indicate what would create an impression in Mr. Tchitcherine's mind that his internment was not dissociated from the disagreeable and unpleasant revelations which he and his colleagues were engaged in pursuing. Of course, when Mr. Tchitcherine was interned, that cut short abruptly these investigations. I think it is a pity.181
§ Passing from the circumstances of his internment, his position at the time, and his character, I wish to touch a little upon the character of his internment and. his subsequent deportation. I hold very strongly, and I said so in the debate in your Lordships' House some time ago, that when you use this right of internment you should use your power only to the extent that is necessary for security, but that subject to security a person interned ought to be treated certainly as liberally as an unconvicted prisoner awaiting his trial. Mr. Tchitcherine was treated very harshly. He was not allowed free access to his friends, and many of them were not allowed to see him at all. Any people who were prominent by their sympathy with him and his cause were prohibited from access.
§ I wish to mention now the case of two people who were sent back to Russia with him—the case of the Petroffs. I am going to make an appeal to the Government. This question of Madame Petroff at Aylesbury Gaol was raised twice in the House of Commons, first of all in November, 1916, by question, and afterwards in a debate in August, 1917. A very grave charge was made that at the Aylesbury Gaol there was a woman of infamous character whom the other detained women were forced to consort with. At that time the answer given, I think by Mr. Samuel, was that, after twenty-four hours, this woman had been isolated, and the others detained had not bad to associate with her. But in August, 1917, Mr. King brought forward in debate the charge—whether it was this woman or not I do not know, but I think it was the same woman—that a prostitute suffering from an advanced stage of venereal disease was in the prison, and that these interned persons were forced by the rules of the prison to go and take a bath immediately after her and use the same utensils as she used. On the second occasion Sir George Cave replied, and he entirely passed that over in silence. May I say (it was mentioned in the debate) that more than one Labour organisation in England who had heard of this, sent violent protests to the Home Office at the time. Official denials, of course, are of very little value in a case like this. The Home Secretary receives reports from officials, and "speaks by the book."
§ This matter is felt to be an outrage, and it is causing intense bitterness not only 182 among the Labour classes but among many Radical organisations; and I would urge upon the Government to have an independent inquiry into these goings-on at Aylesbury Gaol. There are ladies of high position who visit this institution, among them being the Duchess of Bedford and Lady Battersea, and you have men of eminence as Visiting Justices. I would suggest that the Government should not be content to be fobbed off with an official reply, but that they should appoint an independent committee to go through the books of the doctors, and so on, in order to see how long this woman was in prison. I do not think it was a proper thing that this woman should have been in this place at all. I urge the Government to undertake to have that inquired into by an independent body of people.
§ I come now to the question of the deportation of Mr. Tchitcherine. In some of the newspapers which are more or less inspired by the Government there had been paragraphs, for a fortnight or more before his confinement ceased, representing that Mr. Tchitcherine had been set at liberty. That is, of course, absolutely false. I think it was represented at Petrograd—though I am not sure—that he had been set at liberty. The War Cabinet said, I believe, he should not be detained, more than a fortnight before he was deported. He was not set at liberty at all. I understand that Mr. Tchitcherine was sent down to Aberdeen on January 3. On January 2, the Police authorities came and told him that he was to be sent out of the country on the next day. He was not released from prison. He was not allowed to go home. He was not allowed to communicate with any persons with whom he desired to communicate. The authorities (whoever they were) sent telegrams to a selected group of people, who, among others, had been allowed to visit Mr. Tchitcherine, to the effect that they might see him before he went away; but those he most wished to see were not put upon that list. There was not even a telegram sent to the Russian Consul to say that he might see Mr. Tchitcherine before the latter went.
§ Mr. Tchitcherine at that moment was not at all an insignificant person. The dominant Government at Petrograd had proposed some time before that he should be their diplomatic representative in England. This was the man whom you interned while he was holding a responsible 183 official position. This is the man—I will not rise the expression "Russian Government" because that would be open to controversy—whom the Petrograd Government wanted to put in charge of their diplomatic relations. Mr. Tchitcherine was sent down to Euston Station in the custody of the police; he was taken thence to Aberdeen in custody of the police; he was put on hoard a ship at Aberdeen, still in the custody of the police; and yet paragraphs were put in the papers implyng that he had not been deported but had been set at liberty.
§ In Russia it was generally understood and believed that, when they removed their embargo upon those British subjects who were detained at Petrograd, there was to be reciprocity, and that any Russian detained in England should be set free. The Bolshevists (whatever fault you may find with them) did not put the English people under lock and key, or send them in charge of policemen by train to Finland and thence to Sweden. Therefore I feel very strongly that the Government should tell us what communications, either verbal—because Sir George Buchanan is now in England—or in writing have been received; because I cannot help thinking that some letters must have been exchanged on this subject. I might say that Russians were strongly under the impression that there was an agreement by both sides that all impediments should be removed.
§ I ask to-day that we should be told how many Russians are at present interned in the country. There are several, but I have not their names. I hope the Govern-will let us know; because I saw, in answer to a question by Mr. King the other day, that it was stated there was one woman who refused to leave the country without her husband, but that she had been told that her husband could not be allowed to leave because he was a German. Such objections as these are pettifogging. You must look at things in a broad way. If you have people here who belong to the Revolutionary Party in Russia, and who are willing to go to that country, it is a pettifogging thing to say, "We shall send the woman to Russia but not her husband, because the latter happens to he of German origin." That is the view of an attorney and not the view of an able diplomatist.
§ I think I have set forth that Mr. Tchitcherine was a loan of character and position; 184 a man against whom it was absurd to rake up, after the war had been raging more than three years, the fact that he was a member of a club to which Germans belonged before the war. If you thought that this was a proper case for internment or deportation von ought to have waked up to that before 1917. I do not say that the reason for his internment was that he and his colleagues were getting on the track of activities which might have involved Scotland Yard; but I do say that some of the Russians believed it; and it is a bad thing to leave that impression if you can clear it up. I do not know whether we shall be told in the reply that these trumpery cases are still sufficient, in the opinion of the authorities, to intern a man.
§ We get by question and answer in the House of Commons very often very unsatisfactory results. I see that the other day Sir George Cave was asked whether Mr. Tchitcherine was allowed to take away his books and papers; and the Home Secretary replied that he was given every facility but did not avail himself of it. All I can say is that I heard a diametrically opposite report. Mr. Tchitcherine was told, on the evening of January 2, that he would be sent away by train on January 3. He was not released from prison; and so far from his books and papers being offered to him they were kept for investigation. I have been told by Mr. Ellis, of 30, John Street, Bedford Row, Mr. Tchitcherine's solicitor, that this gentleman's books were to be sent to his office after Mr. Tchitcherine had gone in order to be kept for him. Your Lordships may say that this is a small matter. It is a small matter compared with the very much graver things to which I have called the attention of the House. But these things show a pettiness and evasiveness which does not do credit to people when they come to deal with greater things. I hope I have not taken too long in setting forth this case, which required exposition; and I will now put my Question and make my Motion.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON)
My Lords, I must, with all respect to the noble Lord and to your Lordships' House, protest in the strongest manner against the course which the noble Lord has thought fit to adopt upon the present occasion. It is one of the peculiar, and, as I think, anomalous, features of the practice of your 185 Lordships[...] House tint a noble Lord is at liberty to put a Question upon the Paper without the slightest knowledge on the part of the Minister who is called upon to reply to [...] whether the noble Lord is merely going to put the Question as on the Paper and receive a reply to it, whether he is going to talk about other subjects not directly connected with the Question on the Paper, or whether he is going to expand the Question on the Paper into a le[...]gthy speech.
My Lords, it is only as an act of courtesy to your Lordships' House that I represent the Foreign Office in this House. I am not Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and am not familiar with everything that passes in the Foreign Office; but I do week by week, as occasion arises, add to my labours, which are by no means inconsiderable, the additional labour of looking at Foreign office questions in order that I may be able to gratify your Lordships' legitimate curiosity on such points. I am not prepared, however, to represent the Foreign Office if, without a word of warning or hint of what a noble Lord is going to do, I am to be expected to come down here and answer a speech of half an hour, full a detail, packed with imputations and charges, and containing all sorts of ex parte statements and invidious mid unfair remarks, directed at the Government, at the Police, and at everybody concerned, after which the noble Lord is to be at liberty to resume his seat and expect me to give the reply that he wishes. I will not do it, my Lords; and no Minister who has any sense of his own responsibility will be content to represent the Government or the Foreign Office if placed in such a position.
Let us take the Question on the Paper. Your Lordships have seen it or can read it if you like. The Question covers ten or twelve lines of print, and anybody reading the Question might reasonably have inferred, as I did, that what the noble Lord desired to be acquainted with, and had a perfect right to be acquainted with, were the circumstances and the arrangements under which these gentlemen had been sent back to Petrograd. I was prepared, and am prepared, to give the noble Lord full information on that point. But on that branch of the subject he has scarcely said a word. He confined his remarks upon it to about four minutes at the end of his speech. It is true that in the second line of the Question there is a reference to the circumstances of the 186 internment and upon that branch of the speech the noble Lord occupied exactly twenty-seven minutes. He is judge of his own action, but, if he proposed to do that, I submit that the least he could have done was to let me know the charge to which I had to reply. Not one, word did I have in advance, and if my reply is, as it must be, jejune, and I dare say quite unsatisfactory to the noble Lord, I submit that he and he alone is to blame for that consequence. As regards the circumstances of the internment of these gentlemen, I cannot enter into the question because I do not know. All I know is that these gentlemen and some other Russians were interned at an early date of the war—
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
Very well, at a late date in the war, under the Defence of the Realm Regulatimis, on the ground that their activities would be a danger to the Realm. If the noble Lord desires to challenge that, let him send me information in advance and give me an opportunity of making a reply. I know this further, that as regards these gentlemen His Majesty's Government would have been willing at any time to deport them from the country if they had been formally requested by the Russian Government to do so. No such request ever reached us, and His Majesty's Government could not in the public interest concede them the perfect liberty of movement to which the noble Lord seems to think they were entitled.
Now we Conte to the question of deportation. Let me say, in passing, that I cannot answer the question which the noble Lord raised about what passed in Aylesbury Gaol. He spoke about some nameless lady who was subjected to some nameless indignity, of which I never heard till he spoke. I know nothing about this case, and unless the noble Lord gives me the information I can give him no reply. I will pass to the Question which he asked on the Paper—namely, the circumstances in which Mr. Tchitcherine and Mr. Petroff were sent back. These events, my Lords, arose as a result of the situation at the end of November last. In consequence of the demand of Mr. Trotsky for the release of these two Russian gentlemen, who were at that time interned in this country, and of Mr. Trotsky's refusal to allow British subjects to leave Russia until they were 187 released, an understanding was then arrived at whereby His Majesty's Government expressed their willingness to release and repatriate all Russians interned in this country except those against whom there might be charges of offences against the laws of this country, and Mr. Trotsky restored full liberty of movement to British subjects in that country. Six Russian subjects were interned in this country. Of these, two—namely, Tchitcherine and Petroff—have been returned to Russia. Of the circumstances in which they were taken from London or sailed from Aberdeen I know nothing whatever. If the noble Lord desires to make charges, let him give me the information privately, and not for the first time across the floor of this House. The four others were offered the alternative of returning to Russia or remaining interned in this country. Two have chosen to go back to Russia. The third refused to say which alternative he preferred, and it is proposed to send him to Russia with the other two as soon as possible. The fourth, a woman, declines to go back unless accompanied by a German prisoner of war, whom obviously His Majesty's Government cannot release. His Majesty's Government not being in official relations with the Government at Petrograd, the understanding was not the result of official correspondence but of unofficial third party conversations. In these circumstances there are no Papers which can with advantage be laid.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords, I do not know anything of the circumstances of this case which has been mentioned by my noble friend behind me, and I therefore do not propose to discuss it. As to whether these particular Russian gentlemen ought or ought not to have been interned or returned to Russia at a particular time I am unable to express an opinion. I think, however, that the noble Earl opposite was a little hard on my noble friend in resenting, as he obviously did, the particular demand for information which my noble friend made. The noble Earl complained that my noble friend Lord Sheffield had not informed the Government of the particular points on which he desired to be informed, and of the particular charges which he proposed to bring against some authorities at home especially. I did not hear all his speech, but I think that if he did not bring charges 188 at any rate he suggested that the action of the Police was open to criticism and comment. I cannot recall that it has ever been supposed in your Lordships' House that any noble Lord who desires to bring some charges in regard to a particular question should of necessity state beforehand to the Government the precise information which he has himself received or the arguments which he designs to use; and while I entirely understand, and am sure we shall all agree, that it is an extra and I would say unfair burden on the noble Earl opposite in addition to the great amount of public work which he has to do, to be asked to answer detailed questions of this kind, which are only in, perhaps, an indirect sense Foreign Office questions—because the action complained of in this particular case occurred mostly at home—
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
And although it is, we all agree, hard on the noble Earl to have to deal with questions of this kind, I should have thought it would have been possible for His Majesty's Government, with all the talent at their command, to have got one of the noble Lords who sit as colleagues of the noble Earl to undertake replies to more detailed questions of this kind—I do not say smaller questions, because questions affecting persons are often much more important than questions affecting policy, but detailed questions of that kind—of which the noble Earl, we all agree, cannot be expected to undertake the full study. Questions of this sort may and sometimes do assume very great dimensions indeed. As we all know, questions affecting the proper treatment of particular individuals have sometimes in the past affected the fate of Governments. This particular question is not likely to have any effect on His Majesty's present Government, but still it cannot be ignored or set aside; and I feel, therefore, that while I entirely sympathise with the personal position of the noble Earl opposite, I also sympathise with my noble friend who desires, as a member of your Lordships' House, to obtain certain information which I think he has a perfect right to obtain, and with which I trust, in due course, His Majesty's Government. De able to supply him.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
My Lords, in reply to one observation that the 189 noble Marquess made, may I intervene for one moment ? I would like to say this, that I had the honour to sit in the House of Commons for thirteen years, and I never remember an occasion, either when I was a Minister myself—and I was for four years—or when I acted as a private Member, in which a Member of that House, desiring to bring before the House a matter affecting a Department, more particularly if it required a detailed reply or if it contained charges, failed to give an intimation in advance to the Minister concerned of the course that he proposed to pursue. Further, as regards this House, whether that practice prevails here or not—and I think it does; I myself have acted up to it in the past—surely, my Lords, it ought to prevail in a case where the individual who happens to be answering for an Office—the Foreign Office in this case—is not a member of that Office, and cannot, therefore, be expected to have all the information at his fingers' ends. The only other observation I would make has reference to the concluding words of the noble Marquess. He said that no doubt it would be possible to select some noble Lord who sits on this Bench to answer the ordinary Foreign Office questions, but, as the noble Marquess himself remarked, you never know into what small and detailed questions may expand, and it Wag because this Question raised rather large international issues that, instead of asking one of my noble friends to reply to it, out of respect to your Lordships' House I attempted to do so myself.
My Lords, if the noble Earl who leads the House had made a statement in the temperate manner in which he has just spoken and had said that there were some things put forward by my noble friend which took him by surprise and which he could not answer at the moment, I think the House might have felt very general sympathy with him. But surely it is not sufficient in the public interests, in answer to a question of this sort, even if it should be sprung upon you, merely to meet it with a passionate declamation. That might meet with the applause of the majority of your Lordships' House, but I would remind the noble Earl that there is a public outside which also takes cognizance of these things, and that the only effect which I think this answer will leave will be that these were matters which the Government preferred on the whole not to stir up and not to investigate.
190 Now, my Lords, the suggestions which were made were suggestions which went rather to the root of good government, and I do think it might better have occurred to the noble Earl, in the interests of good government, to have said that, although they were sprung upon bins and although no one could expect hint to answer them at the moment, still, if notice of this sort were given by a member of your Lordships' House, he would consider it the duty of the Government to investigate them and to refute them if they could be refuted. I think I should also call the attention of the noble Earl to this fact. When he began his speech he said he would answer the Question on the Paper, of which he has had ample notice. He has not in fact answered it. The very first lines of the Question "call attention to the circumstances of the internment." Now the noble Earl said not a word about the circumstances of that internment, not a word as to the charges made against Tchitcherine or as to the supposed charges which were made against him or the subjects of which he was thought guilty. Further on in the same Question, he is distinctly asked to say "how many Russians are still at present interned in this country." Not one word did he say in answer to that.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I beg your pardon. These were the words which I read from the paper I had in my hand, and therefore I could not be mistaken—I said "There are at this time six Russian subjects interned in this country."
Then I apologise to the noble Earl. I heard him speak about four Russians, but I did not understand him to say that these were all who were interned. In that case, I am entirely mistaken as to that. But I do not think the question has been sufficiently met in the public interest, although perhaps it cannot be expected that it should be met to-day. If such things are said it is important in the interests of the reputation of the Government that they should be dealt with. They are matters to be investigated, and not brushed on one side.
My Lords, in reply I do not think it necessary to go into the personal question, but I will merely say this, that, though I referred to the case of Mrs. Petroff in Aylesbury Gaol 191 because it was closely connected with the matter, I said I did not put it to the Government as a thing to be dealt with now, but I did ask, as these allegations had been made in the House of Commons, whether they would take steps to have an independent inquiry. I think that was a moderate demand. As to the other points, may I say that when I brought forward a somewhat similar question about a year and a half ago, Lord Derby was deputed to answer me ? As Mr. Samuel and Sir George Cave were involved, I naturally thought it was a question for the Home Office, but, at any rate, Lord Derby wrote to me when I gave notice of the Question and asked for particulars. I gave him the fullest particulars, and if the noble Earl had written to me—the Question had been on the Paper for a good while—and had asked for particulars I would have furnished them at once. I did not know he was going to answer me. I was not asked for particulars. For the rest I do not think I need add anything, but I can say I think the noble Earl has by implication admitted that they have broken faith with the Russian Government.
The noble Earl will allow me to say why. He said that by conversations it was agreed that these people in England should be released if the Russians were released, but they were not released, and more than a fortnight after it was determined they should be sent to Russia they were still kept in custody. That is not being released, and it is felt very bitterly by people connected with Russia that advantage was taken of Russia, and that while that Government had released our men and allowed them to go, others were kept here in custody and sent abroad in custody.