§ LORD ERSKINE
My Lords, the honour has been conferred upon me of moving the Address in reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne. As your Lordships have heard, Ireland is placed in the forefront of the gracious Speech, and His Majesty's Government is undoubtedly pledged to complete the legislation commenced by the late Government and ratified by both Houses of Parliament. It must be the earnest prayer and hope of all who have the welfare of the State at heart that before long the Irish Government will be strong enough to suppress lawlessness and bloodshed, protect the loyal population who have suffered so grievously during the last few years, and bring peace, prosperity amid contentment to that distracted country.
Speaking for myself, may I say that I have consistently been one of those opposed to the policy pursued for Ireland by the late Government? I have always felt that Ireland's happiness and prosperity were wrapped up in the Union of Great Britain and Ireland; that this country was honestly and earnestly striving to banish any grievance that the Irish people had against it, and was only waiting for the reciprocating hand-grip of friendship to see a lasting and enduring peace. Ireland, however, would not have it so. She chose other methods. Her leaders were determined to drag her along paths which were dangerous and, as I think, led to disaster, and to-day we find, I fear, small signs of that re-establishment of law and order which would augur well for the future of that country. It is a sad thing that so talented, and in many respects so charming, a people should be the prey of wild and lawless men.
7 What surprises me most is the almost callous indifference shown by the people of this country towards Irish affairs. If one member of the body suffers, surely the whole body suffers with it. But the opposite seems to hold good in this case; and I cannot help feeling that if our people in England had spoken with no uncertain voice when the evil commenced, we should never have had to write the unhappy chapter in our history that must now be written. I sincerely trust that His Majesty's Government will not allow the present state of things to go on indefinitely, that, if after a certain interval the Irish Government fail to suppress murder and outrage, they will firmly take the matter in hand, re-establish law and order, and support the population that stood by us so loyally during the great war. I do not think that is too much to ask.
As regards our relations with foreign countries it is gratifying to know that in every way the prospect of united action with our Allies is assured, as it is only by unity that we can hope to overcome the ninny difficulties that are before us in Europe and in the Near East. We wish every success to the noble Marquess, Lord Curzon, who is striving for a permanent peace at this moment in Lausanne.
The gracious Speech from the Throne lays the utmost stress on the evil of unemployment. I am certain that there is no one in your Lordships' House this even who has not felt the deepest and warmest sympathy for the men, women and children who are to-day unemployed. But it must be remembered that we are all oppressed with the burden of taxation. We have been taxed to such an extent that many of us have found it most difficult and most irksome to keep our estates and our homes together. In spite of that, however, I am sure that everyone of your Lordships has done all in ids power to alleviate the pitiful distress which we now see around us. I hope that those who are unfortunately out of work—and God grant that they may soon find employment—will not be led astray by any extreme section of the population. That is the worst thing that could happen, and it would only prolong the evil of unemployment instead of healing it.
It is very easy to criticise, and very difficult to perform. One hopes that His Majesty's Government will find the means of reducing the burden of taxation, that they will not interfere, except when it is 8 absolutely necessary, between employer and employed, and that they will stamp out extravagance and waste wherever they may be found. I venture to think that the Government have a great opportunity before them, especially after the splendid victory at the polls—an opportunity to go forward with a wise, firm, and courageous policy, not attempting too much at first or making promises that cannot be fulfilled. Some people think that we suffer from a plethora of legislation. I remember a gentleman rising on the platform at a meeting I attended during the Election, and saying, "I know that we pay our Members of Parliament £400 a year for attendance at Westminster; I should like to see them paid £800 a year not to go there for the next few years." If the Government will hasten slowly, I am absolutely convinced that they will earn the eternal gratitude of this country, and add further lustre to the great Conservative Party. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty as followeth—
§ "Most Gracious Sovereign,—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—(Lord Erskine.)
§ LORD QUEENBOROUGH
My Lords, in rising to second the Motion which has just been made, may I first be allowed to express my own personal pleasure in being associated in this task with my old friend the noble Lord who has just sat down, and to say at once that I heartily concur in much that he has said in relation to Ireland? It is not usual on these occasions, I believe, for the seconder to travel over the same ground, but I should like, with all the strength I have, to assert my own hope and belief that this Government will view the question of the new Constitution of the Free State in Ireland with an enlightened eye, and with a determination that, when an agreement has been reached, they will see that the law is carried out. If they do, they will give encouragement. to the loyalists throughout the whole of Ireland, and let them feel that, perhaps at no distant time, Ireland will be once more on the road to peace 9 and prosperity, accompanied by contentment and good will to this country, which, after all, has had so much to suffer in this connection.
His Majesty in his gracious Speech spoke of the concern which he felt for the state of trade and employment. That is a concern which will be shared by every one of his subjects in this country. If there is any deduction to be drawn from the Election it is the determination of every section of the people of this country, whatever their political colour, to insist that the Government should be one that would bring about drastic retrenchment., and would deal, in particular, with what they believed to be the waste in Government Departments, and also with our commitments overseas, and especially in Mesopotamia and Palestine. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the speeches which he delivered throughout the country, warned the country that in the coming year it would have to bear the full weight of the debt to the United States, and that, in addition, he would have to provide for the finance in connection with Ireland, of which he did not, at the time, know the extent.
Another deduction obviously to be drawn from the recent Election is that the majority of the electors of the country were not in favour of what was put forward by the Labour Party under the name of a capital levy. A capital levy, as your Lordships know only too well, would result in the shattering of confidence in the country at this time and would mean a rapid curtailment of trade which is only just beginning to revive. The Government will not travel along those lines. They will take into consideration the history of finance which has made this country what it is to-day, wealthy and strong, with credit almost unassailable, and has enabled the country to come through the greatest war whose record is to be found in the pages of history, and to remain a centre of finance of the world, with British credit and British currency a safe and reliable passport in every part of the world. The Government will not lay out their policy on those lines. They will lay it out. I presume, on the lines that the great indebtedness which this country is now bearing will be met from both interest and capital over such a term of years as will not place too great a strain upon industry. Industry will best flourish when it is left to work out its own salvation with as few restrictions as possible. Industry will have largely to depend, as it has 10 depended in the past, in the face of the keenest foreign competition—a competition aided by lower rates of wages and depreciated exchanges—on the spirit of loyal co-operation between capital and labour, between employer and employed.
In one of the countries with which we have lately been at war, which is now shattered by the effect of that war, it has been seriously suggested that the Government should call upon the people to give some hours of their time to the service of the State, free. It is an appeal which would hardly be made if they had not faith in the loyalty of the people of their country. Such a project as that would not appeal to the people of this country, and there would be no necessity for it. But it has in it, in my opinion, the germ of this idea—that there is room amongst us, all of us, whatever we labour at, for a greater concentration of purpose and of effort in the industry to which we give our time. In this Parliament, Labour is more strongly represented than it ever has been before. Let us hope and believe that Labour will make the wisest use of its new accession of power. Labour will be wise if it learns from the lessons lately given to those of its representatives who misused their power in the management of the affairs of the municipalities of this country. Let Labour bear that lesson in mind, and then we may believe that Labour will do its part, and do its part well, in helping to bring round the industries of the country in the most critical period of our history.
The keynote of our endeavour, as I said, must be economy. The only means of raising the additional capital which is required after meeting taxation is, in my opinion, from the savings of the people. The savings of the people must provide a fund for the extension of our industries, for new enterprises, and also for those loans to foreign countries which are so necessary and so vital in bringing back in new orders not only value to this country, but increased employment for our people. We must not, in my opinion, place any reliance upon getting any large amount in respect of the indebtedness by other countries to this country. Much of it is irrecoverable, and we shall be able to collect but little of it in the course of a generation.
In his gracious Speech, the King har spoken of the settlement of the Near East question. I should like to associate 11 myself with what was said by the noble Lord on that subject. There can be no permanent peace, and there can be no restoration of security to those peoples who are involved in it, until the Near East question is settled. If I might say one word more on that subject it is this. I believe that there is a very strong feeling of loyalty in this country towards the people of Turkey. I believe that feeling is reciprocated and may, perhaps, do much in its turn to help the negotiations that are now going forward. This country has the greatest confidence in its representative at Lausanne, the Leader of your Lordships' House, whom we regret not to see in his place to-day. And in regard to the reference in his Majesty's gracious Speech to a closer co-operation between the Allies, if there is one thing that will give greater confidence than any other it is the appointment of the late Leader of the Opposition in this House, Lord Crewe, to be Ambassador in France.
I will not detain your Lordships longer than to refer briefly to the League of Nations loan scheme, as it is called—a loan which is to be made to Austria. I observe that the Government hope that Parliament will see its way to put the loan through. It seems to me that is the only way now of saving Austria from financial chaos—chaos which will be reflected throughout the whole of Europe. It is pleasant in this connection to note the splendid work which has been clone by the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, Lord Robert Cecil, and others, in giving practical shape to the scheme. It is also not to be forgotten that the object of the loan is to facilitate the purpose of buying that raw material and those necessaries without which Austria will not be able to get through the next few months.
In the last paragraph of his gracious Speech, His Majesty prays that the blessing of Almighty God may rest upon the deliberations of Parliament. I think that I may say, with respect, that all must wish that the blessing of Almighty God will rest upon the work which His; Majesty is doing for the country and for the Empire daily. If there is one common bond which unites all classes in this country at this time it is that Common feeling of admiration and respect for and gratitude to His Majesty the King and the members of his august family in the work which they are daily doing in the interests 12 of the country and the Empire. Than feeling is reciprocated, I know, to the very furthermost bounds of the Empire. In conclusion, may I say that that bond is one which helps to cement those great and loyal nations which make up the Empire, and is one which makes those nations feel that in the path of their destinies there is hope for a future for the Empire more glorious even than perhaps its whole illustrious past? I beg to second the Motion.
§ VISCOUNT GREY OF FALLODON
My Lords, I have been asked, for this occasion, to perform the duty which Lord Crewe has for so many years performed in your Lordships' House, from which he is now, of course, withdrawn. I would begin, as he would have done, by complimenting the noble Lords who have moved and seconded the Address on the way in which they have performed that duty. They expressed, indeed, one or two personal opinions which show that, at any rate in one case, one of the questions of the day was not approached from quite the same angle of vision as some of us on this side of the House approach it. But with the clearness with which the noble Lords put their views, and with the sincerity of their tone, we all sympathise. I sympathise especially with the aspirations that they expressed for economy and for peace in the Near East, and with the sentiments expressed by the noble Lord who seconded the Address with regard to the League of Nations. Indeed, I have no controversial points to raise at all on the speeches of the two noble Lords. I regret that Lord Crewe should no longer be occupying the position in political life in your Lordships' House that he has so long occupied. All of us who were his colleagues will regret that on personal grounds, but I, at any rate, and I think all of us, feel that it is in the public interest that he should have undertaken the public duty which is now before him.
§ VISCOUNT GREY OF FALLODON
I would congratulate both the Government and Lord Crewe upon his appointment as Ambassador at Paris. We who have been his colleagues in Cabinets for so many years know well what his ability is. He has the qualities which are common to many able men, but one quality which he pos- 13 sesses is special degree is that of taking up the thread which has been dropped, or calling attention to the point which has been lost sight of, in a long and tangled discussion. As far as I can judge from What is going on in foreign affairs, that special gift is likely to be not less useful in foreign affairs than it has proved to be in domestic affairs at home. He was a most able and unselfish colleague, in every way loyal to his colleagues, and I am sure that in him the Government will have not only an able Ambassador, but one who in able to give them wise counsel from his knowledge of affairs on the spot.
I would add a word also with regard to Lord Hardinge, whose place Lord Crewe is going to fill. For many years I was closely associated with him in work at the Foreign Office. He has had a long public career, and has done most distinguished public service. Some of that service in India was rendered under stress of great physical suffering and also domestic sorrow. His has been a long and distinguished career, in which he has shown some of the best qualities of British statesmanship. I trust that when he retires from the post he now occupies he will give us in this House from time to time the benefit of his wide and long experience of Indian and foreign affairs.
Now, my Lords, I would like to say a word on the main subject of the Speech from the Throne—that of Ireland. I will not dwell upon it at any length, because I assume that there is coming before your Lordships presently the Bill for consummating the Peace Treaty, and that that will be the occasion for a discussion, more full and adequate, on Irish affairs. I would, therefore, say very little, except that I assume that the passage of that Bill for finally establishing the Peace Treaty will be rendered as easy and smooth as possible by every Party in your Lordships' house. We all wish to see that completed. The circumstances which preceded the Peace Treaty, and those which have followed it are, indeed, sad and tragic, and the future is dark.
I see no hope in the future at all from further British interference in Ireland contrary to any of the provisions which now exist. The whole situation has resulted from the failure, for causes into which I will not enter, of British government in Ireland. The future is now in the hands of the Irish people themselves. They must work out their future for themselves, and 14 if they cannot do it I feel hopeless about the situation, but for our part—for the part of the British Government—I do see two things clearly. There are two charters of liberty in Ireland. One is the Peace Treaty, and the other is that embodying the rights given to Ulster in 1920. There are those two things. The course see clear for the British Government is to abide by those two things, by those Treaty obligations which have been undertaken, one with regard to the South and West of Ireland, and the other with regard to Ulster in 1920. I f we do that, I see an honourable course before us, and I hope the result will be that Ireland itself will work out its own future to happier conditions than it has hither i o known.
Before I pass to other points in the Speech from the Throne, I desire to say a word upon the general attitude from which I would approach them as regards His Majesty's Government, There is still, in spite of the Election, a considerable amount of confusion, even upon this Bench. There are sitting side by side with us people who regard the dismissal of the Coalition Government as a great misfortune. I personally feel a great sense of relief that it has gone. Just as strongly as I felt during the war that the Coalition Government must, in the interests of the country, be supported, so in the last year or two I had come to feel, equally strongly, that in the interest of the country it should be displaced. In fact, my own feeling had come to be akin to something like despair of the future of the country if the Coalition Government continued. We on the Liberal side were powerless to influence its policy or terminate its existence. That was done by the Conservative Party, and His Majesty's present Government are the result of that movement in the Conservative Party.
I am, therefore, speaking on the Opposition side, facing a Government and a Party which has done what for the last two years some of us most wanted to see done, and has done it from the very reasons for which we wished to see it done. Naturally, therefore, I have no desire to approach from a controversial point of view what the Government have put before us. I know there are differences between us. There is a definite difference on the question of the Safeguarding of Industries Act, a matter which does not now concern your Lordships, and other 15 differences there may be in future. In fact, differences are bound to be disclosed. The difference between Conservative and Liberal is, in some respects, one of temperament which leads people of different temperaments to take different views on different questions; but I am not going to search for any points of difference before they are forced upon us.
The Government have had very little time to do anything yet to inspire confidence. It is equally true that they have done nothing to inspire distrust. Criticism there is sure to be in the future, but I see no reason why that criticism should not be of the kind that is helpful and exerted to improve rather than of the kind that is bitter and destructive. That is the spirit in which I wish to make what comments I have to make on other matters in the gracious Speech.
As regards foreign affairs I hope we have again reached the point, or rather returned to the point, at which they can be regarded not as a matter of Party politics. From the Election of 1886 onwards, with the exception of the last two years, they have been so regarded by one Party and the other. That has been the rule. That rule, no doubt, has been broken in the last two or three years, as the Coalition Government would hold, by the captiousness of those who criticised them, but as I hold by a departure into the novel methods and unstable policy of the Coalition Government itself. With the passing of the Coalition Government I trust that has passed away, and I frankly say that in the language which the present Government have hitherto used about foreign affairs I see nothing except what tends to confirm the hope that we may treat foreign affairs not as a matter of Party politics.
The situation in the Near East is difficult. I am not sure that people realise how ominous the situation in foreign affairs is generally. It is only four years since the Armistice. Turkey and Russia are working together. Germany has a special Treaty with Russia, and we are not far off, if we have not already reached, the point at which Turkey, Russia and Germany are forming a combination together. If anybody had told us that within four years of the Armistice there would be such a situation in foreign affairs it would have seemed incredible. But to-day things are shaping in that direction. In the Near 16 East, which is the question of the moment, I have always felt that the only chance of getting through without disaster was that the Allies, France, Italy and ourselves, should preserve a united front. That, I understand, has been the policy right through of Lord Curzon, carried on, if I may judge from some correspondence which has appeared in the Press in which he has been concerned, under great difficulties, but adhered to by him with firmness and patience. It has seemed in the last week or two that the efforts to preserve a united Allied front are likely to be successful. The Allies have gone to Lausanne united. I am not only convinced that this is the only policy which will bring us safely through the Near Eastern Question, but I believe it has every prospect of bringing us through.
My reading of the situation is that the Turks, victorious as they have been, extreme as they may be, worked upon by unfavourable outside influences as they may be, will not press things to the point at which they find they have to face the Allies united. I trust that the lesson they may have learned from the drawing together of the Allies in the last week or two is that extreme courses simply increase the solidarity of the Allies and make things more difficult for Turkey. I hope there may be a successful issue from the Lausanne Conference. But though the bad situation in the Near East was due in a large degree to the mistaken policy of the Coalition Government, it was not entirely due to that. The lessons to be drawn from what is happening now in the Near East, and from what has happened in the drawing together of the three Powers I have mentioned, are lessons which need to be taken to heart in France and Italy as much as in this country. I trust they are already bearing fruit, and that the solidarity of the Allies may vet produce a more favourable situation in Europe than appeared likely a short time ago.
One point upon which I wish to touch, connected with foreign affairs, is not mentioned in the gracious Speech; that is the question of Mesopotamia and Palestine. I will not go into it at any length. It seems to me that we found ourselves in Mesopotamia for strategic reasons during the war. With the conclusion of the Armistice those strategic reasons ceased to exist, and on political and economic grounds it would have been much better if we had at once 17 terminated our occupation of Mesopotamia. I regard the money spent there as wasted. But what I am most apprehensive of is what commitments we have there which may cost us untold sums in the future. Mr. Bonar Law, when pressed to give a promise that he would at once terminate our commitments in Mesopotamia and Palestine, replied cautiously, and I think rightly, that he must have time to examine the situation, and I urge the Government to go carefully into the question of what commitments the Coalition Government have really left us in this matter.
I was pressed a little time ago to take the line of saying that we should at once terminate our commitments in Palestine. I raised the point immediately of the obligations which had been undertaken by the Coalition Government towards the Zionists. I entirely agree with the line I was asked to take but I felt that as I had very often criticised the Coalition Government for having, as I thought, broken obligations, it was a little difficult to take up a point which might lay me open to the statement that I was urging it to break another obligation. The answer I made was that other obligations had been given to tile Arabs which were not consistent with the obligations given to the Zionists, and that one of those obligations was prior to those given to the Zionists. I will not pursue that matter, but it is an instance of the confusion into which this question has been brought. There is the Treaty with King Feisal which we have read in the newspapers. I hope the Government will be able to give a clear statement of our obligations and will go into the matter with a view to curtailing or, as I would prefer, terminating those commitments altogether, if that be possible.
I thought the publication of the announcement issued by the Coalition Government on September l6, the call to arms to the self-governing Dominions, was a mistake. It would be very ominous if some day a call were issued to the Dominions to help us with regard to some commitment about which they had not been consulted. It occurs to me, as a possible way of clearing up this situation, that, when there is an opportunity of consulting the self-governing Dominions, the Government should take them into their confidence as to what our Imperial commitments really are to be, so that we shall not be put 18 in the position of having commitments which involve great liabilities, and which at the same time may not have behind them the full support of the Empire. In that way we might possibly get some order in this matter, and I hope the Government will approach it from the point of view that, exhausted as the Empire has been by the war, it ought to be the policy of the British Government to curtail existing commitments, if possible, and certainly not to undertake new ones. We have extended into new commitments since the war, and I hope that the Government will look into those commitments; that they will, if possible, terminate them; and that they will come to an agreement with the self-governing Dominions in the future with regard to those Imperial commitments which the whole Empire is prepared to defend.
I noticed with great satisfaction one point in the King's Speech; I mean the reference to the work which the League of Nations has done with regard to Austria. Austria was one of those difficulties which were apparently insoluble. It seems as if the League of Nations has found the means of solving that question. It is not the first apparently insoluble question which the League of Nations has undertaken successfully. Upper Silesia was not referred to the League of Nations until it was apparently insoluble. I hope His Majesty's Government will recognise that the League of Nations has done exceedingly good work in these matters, and that they will neglect no opportunity in future of using the League of Nations in every way in which it is likely to be successful and helpful. Every time something is referred to the League of Nations which the League of Nations is able to solve, something has been done to build up and strengthen the League. I think its growth must be slow. But, if it is slow, it will also be steady, and it is only by making the strengthening of the League of Nations the aim and pivot of the policy of His Majesty's Government that they can secure that the League of Nations shall be, what I think it may in future become, a real security for the peace of Europe, producing that sense of security which is the only thin that will enable the nations to reduce their expenditure on armaments.
Expenditure on armaments cannot be reduced by one nation alone. No one nation can solve that problem. It must 19 be the outcome of a general sense of security affecting all nations together. I believe the League of Nations provides the only chance of producing that sense of security. I believe it can do it, and I trust that His Majesty's Government will lose no opportunity of strengthening the League, and of making their Allies and other Governments with whom they co-operate in foreign affairs feel that cooperation in the direction of the League of Nations is the form of co-operation which the British Government most desire. We must have co-operation with other nations in the matter of the League of Nations as much as in any other question of foreign affairs. I am glad that His Majesty's Government have put that reference to the League of Nations in the Speech. I trust that they have put it in, not only because financial provision will he required, but because they really mean to pursue what I would call a League of Nations policy.
I will not take up time with the very important question of reparations and Allied debts, except to say that until those questions are settled I do not believe that there can be progress with the reconstruction of Europe. Much time has been lost. After the Election of 1918 it seems to me that the question of reparations, partly owing to the feeling aroused about it during the war, was raised on an impossible scale and in a wrong key, and much time has been lost in consequence. But, surely, it has been becoming more and more apparent that it is necessary, in the question of reparations and Allied debts, that the countries concerned should ascertain what are the actual facts, and should face those facts. I regret very much that more use was not made of the Bankers' Commission, which met in June to go into the question of reparations, and which adjourned because it was not supported. That was not the fault of the Coalition Government, I believe, but it seems to me that the sooner something of that kind is again set on foot, the sooner the facts are ascertained and the sooner the facts are faced, the sooner will it be possible to make a start with the reconstruction of Europe, and that until this is done that start will not be made.
I would say only one word on the question of unemployment, a most important and distressing question. I am sure the palliative measures which the Government have in 20 contemplation will receive support whenever they are produced. The situation is such that whatever remedies can be suggested and applied for the existing distress will, I am sure, be received with sympathy and support. But behind this abnormal question of unemployment is the question of the normal unemployment which must recur with the variation of trade. I believe, though I am no special authority on the subject, that the most hopeful solution is to be found in insurance by trades. I know it to be exceedingly difficult, but I am sure that one of the things which causes unrest in the country is the feeling of insecurity amongst great masses of wage-earning men. I am sure that their unrest is not merely due to a desire for higher wages. It is due also to the fact that, whatever their wages may be, there is this terrible apprehension of insecurity which exists for so many of them. That, of course, cannot be prevented by mere palliatives or remedial measures for the moment. It can only be removed by some scheme which will make them feel that, when the oscillations of trade bring about what I call normal unemployment, provision is made under which they will be maintained, and if that can be done through insurance by trades, I am sure that a great step will have been gained towards removing One of the causes of industrial unrest.
The result of the Election has shown us that forces are at work in this country which are making for Change. Changes there must be. For some time, indeed, what some of us regard as the old order has been passing. Perhaps it is likely to pass more quickly still in the years that are immediately before us. If those forces find expression in violent and economically unsound measures the misery and distress that will be wrought in this highly organised industrial country must, I believe, be incalculable. But the forces cannot be ignored. There are problems which press for solution, such as that of unemployment, for which solutions have to be found. I trust they can be found in measures which are economically sound, which will not impair the prosperity of the country, and which will produce greater security without doing injury; but the solution is going to be difficult. It. will require much time and patience, reflection and study, especially by those who are most expert in this question.
The Election has secured us a breathing space, an opportunity for working out 21 schemes of that kind, an opportunity for discuss rig these things, I hone quietly, and I trust the Government will take full advantage of that opportunity, and will set, themselves to working out these social schemes. They have power and great responsibility. Probably they will retain t heir position for the normal lifetime of a Parliament. The future of this country is going to depend enormously upon the use they make of that time, of their power, and of the responsibility they now have in dealing with these social problems. I will only add this—that, so far as f am concerned, if in the course of the next few years the policy of His Majesty's Government does result in gradual but decided improvement abroad, and in solving some of these difficult social problems at home, there is no feeling of Party spirit which will prevent me from rejoicing deeply and sincerely.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY)
My Lords, I am sure your Lordships will excuse my appearance at this box in the place of my noble friend the Leader of the House. Enough has been already said in the speeches which have been delivered in the House this afternoon to relieve me from pointing out that my noble friend has gone upon most important public business—most important European business—to tire Conference at Lausanne, and it is for that reason, and for that alone, that he is not here in his proper place to represent His Majesty's Government. I hope your Lordships will extend to me a measure of indulgence. I feel in an unaccustomed place. I am sure that there is no member who addresses your Lordships for the first time who needs a greater measure of consideration than the humble individual who now addresses you.
But, first of all, it is my duty to say what I think, and what is always clone, namely, how grateful we are, as the noble Viscount has already said, to my two noble friends who sit behind me, for their speeches in moving and seconding the Address. The mover is a very old friend and associate of mine. I have learned the value of his assistance through many years of Opposition, and I all] very glad to think that it should he through his voice that tire first Motion in support of His Majesty's Government should be submitted to your Lordships' House. He has shown in neat phrases that he is well 22 able to hold his own in debate, and the independence of his view, as well as his eloquence, leads me to hope very much from him in the future. As to my noble friend who seconded, he is a man, of course, of great experience in both Houses of Parliament, and he has dealt with the subjects which he handled with great skill, and with. I think, a measure of knowledge which mill be valuable to all of us. We are grateful to both the noble Lords.
The change which has taken place in the composition of His Majesty's Government is not the only change which has taken place on these benches. The noble Viscount has just spoken, in terms which I certainly could not improve, of the great services which Lord Crewe has rendered for many years in your Lordships' House, and of the greater service he is now rendering by accepting tile important post of Ambassador in Paris. I will not say that it was any matter of surprise to me that the noble Viscount should use the language which he did. His Majesty' Government consider themselves extremely lucky, if I may use such a phrase, that they have induced Lord Crewe to accept this post. We are satisfied that no better appointment could be made. I, perhaps, may say that I have for so many years sat beside Lord Crewe—I mean physically; I will not say politically—that the great friendship that existed between us has been very much affirmed in these last few years, and I have learned to appreciate even more than I did the great qualities of his mind and character.
I need not say that he has been most worthily succeeded here by the noble Viscount, whose speech must have impressed your Lordships, as it certainly impressed the Government, as a most statesmanlike utterance. With what he said I think I almost entirely agree. I am sure I agreed with what he said as to the necessity for a change of Government. I do not want to dwell upon that, but merely mention it in order to show that my agreement extends to that particular, as well as to the others. But it was very generous of the noble Viscount to say all that he did, because, as he reminded your Lordships, he is a. Liberal, and a very great Liberal, and we are a Conservative Government—a Conservative Government of the old type, not reactionary but distinctly Conservative-sand we have gone back, as it were, to the normal conditions of English 23 public life, the old Party system, under which we hope we shall be able to show that we represent the Conservative feelings of the country.
It was the Conservative feelings of the country which decided the late General Election. It was the determination of the electors that they required that opportunity for recuperation which was necessitated by the great efforts of the war, and by what I may call the oscillations in legislation and administration which have followed since the war. They wanted peace and quietness, and therefore they returned a Conservative Government. That was the principal reason, but I think there was also a special reason in the personality of my right honourable friend, the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister not only places at the service of the country his great abilities, his great Parliamentary experience, and what I may call his charming personality, but he also has a character so high that it is clear that when he spoke in the campaign he deserved and received the confidence of the country.
I turn now to the speech which the noble Viscount has just delivered. First, let me say a word upon foreign affairs. While I was listening to the noble Viscount I felt a very special regret that my noble friend Lord Curzon was not present, but if he will accept me as a very inadequate substitute I will try to reply, in some measure at any rate, to the important observations which he made. As regards Mesopotamia I need not tell him that we feel very acutely all that he said. We are satisfied, as my right honourable friend said during the campaign, that it was very doubtful policy to have originally gone to Mesopotamia, although I do not criticise those who went there; the circumstances were very difficult at the moment. It is, however, certain that we could not be better employed than in examining carefully, as we are examining, the obligations into which we have entered. I can assure the noble Viscount that we shall be the first to take into our confidence the great sister nations beyond the seas who form part of the British Empire. We realise to the full how important it is in foreign affairs, and in the commitments of this country, to carry with us the assent and knowledge of our Dominions.
As regards the Near East, I was very glad to hear the noble Viscount announce as he alone, perhaps, has the authority to announce, the return of the country to non- 24 party treatment of foreign affairs. No observation which he made in the whole course of his speech was received with more satisfaction by the Government than his statement that foreign affairs were no longer to be a Party question. We, of course, are anxious to pursue a policy of appeasement abroad, and the Lausanne Conference is an example of that policy. I think that all he said on that head commanded our support. It is true that there was, at one time, an appearance of a certain divergence growing up between the great Western Allies, not only in respect to the Near East but elsewhere; and it was the first business of the Government to do their best to back up the policy, which my noble friend Lord Curzon had already made his own, of getting rid of that element of divergence.
I am able to confirm what the noble Viscount has said that that has been accomplished, and that my noble friend has gone to Lausanne in company with the two co-equal Allies, France and Italy, in order to pursue a consolidated policy of all three Powers together. That is a matter of the greatest possible satisfaction. It is, as the noble Viscount says, the great security for peace in Europe, and for the appeasement of which I have spoken, whether it be in the Near East or elsewhere—supported by public opinion in France, as I think the noble Viscount said. And I think I ought to say that these improved conditions are due in no small measure to the experience and skill of my noble friend Lord Curzon, who has taken a very large share in bringing them about.
I am sure the noble Viscount and your Lordships will not expect me to say very much upon the merits of that Conference. It is evidently a matter which, while the Conference is sitting, must be approached with great reserve. But there are, of course, certain rights and certain interests to which we must have regard, and to which we must make others have regard, at the Conference—rights, in particular, in the Straits, and interests, in particular, in saving, if we can, the wretched populations who are the victims of so much misfortune in that region. Those matters are very dear to us.
But although we must take a firm line on those matters, as your Lordships will expect us to do, there is no desire to be unfriendly to Turkey. That, I am sure, would be a mistake. The standard of 25 administration and government in those Eastern countries is very different from our own. We Dave been engaged ever since I have been in public life in doing our best to mitigate its excesses and correct its mistakes, and that, of course, is part of the policy of the Government. But there is no desire whatever to challenge the independence of Turkey, or in any way to assail it. Upon that there is no ground for alarm. It is the policy of the Government to restore stable conditions in the Near East without in any way threatening the independence of Turkey. It would he absurd to say that any substantial progress at Lausanne has yet been made. All that can be said is that everything promises well there, and your Lordships may rest assured that our efforts will be unremitting in the endeavour to carry out the policy which I have indicated.
The noble Viscount said something about the Austrian loan, and he congratulated the Government, upon the fact that this was a policy carried out through the instrumentality of the League of Nations. That is perfectly true. I agree with him entirely. It is most desirable that it should be well known how important in this respect the League of Nations has been. The Government believe that the League of Nations is an essential part of the equipment of foreign policy, and it is very gratifying, and also very useful, that at this early stage of its proceedings it should be possible to attribute these successes to it. I do not know that I need say anything more about the Austrian loan, except to add that all the arrangements for it are well forward. A Dutch gentleman has already been appointed the Controller-General. It. was part of the arrangement that the Controller-General should be the citizen of a neutral State, and therefore M. Zimmermann was appointed. Though nothing more can be said as to its proceedings up to date, I am glad to add, and I am sure the House will be gratified to hear, that the very fact that this policy has been given effect to, and this gentleman appointed, has already had a tranquillising effect on the internal condition of Austria.
The noble Viscount then turned to discuss the question of unemployment. I was very glad to hear both my noble friends behind me expressing the deep sympathy which every member of your Lordships' House must feel for those who are out of work. The position is, undoubtedly, a 26 serious and in some aspects a grave one. At the same time, I do not think it is right to take too gloomy a view. After all, there is an improvement in respect of unemployment. I do not want to trouble your Lordships with many figures, but although the figure of actual unemployment at this moment is very large, yet it is not so bad as it was a year ago. The numbers stand at this moment at 1,377,000, which, as compared with January of t his year, is a diminution of nearly 500,000. That is a considerable figure. I do not minimise the gravity of this large measure of unemployment, but it is a great thing to be able to say that it has diminished by something more than one-third since January of this year. At the moment there is a, slight rise again, but that is a seasonal rise and we may not have any special regard to it.
Having said so much by way of comfort to your Lordships, I ought to say, on the other side, that though the numbers are a little better, in one other respect the situation is a little worse: that is, that the resources of these men are exhausted. I mean that the resources as organised bodies and the resources as individuals of a large part of the working classes are exhausted. Your Lordships are aware that the funds of the trade unions are very low, and what is true of the trade unions as a whole is true, I am sorry to say, in great measure of individuals. Their resources have been spent during the pressure of these last months; so that though the numbers as a whole are less than they were in January, yet the individual condition of many of the people who are out of work is not so good as it was. The noble Viscount spoke of possible remedies. He knows as well as I do that the only real remedy is the improvement of the conditions of trade. That is the only real remedy, and the achievement of that remedy turns much more upon an improvement in general political administration both at home and abroad than upon anything else. If we are successful in having a good foreign policy and a tranquil policy at home, we shall do far more to remedy unemployment than by any other method.
But it would not be fair to our predecessors, and it would convey an incomplete picture to the House, were I not to remind your Lordships of what has actually been done, because it is not inconsiderable. 27 It is true, as I think the noble Viscount said, that the measures are only palliatives; but, still, they are something. Since November, 1920, a sum of no less than £101,000,000 has been paid by way of unemployment benefit. That is a very large figure. All of that, of course, has not been contributed out of State funds; three-fourths of it has been contributed by the industries themselves, by the employers and the employed. But the fact remains that the total sum on that account is as great as £101,000,000. Coming to lesser matters, there are the relief works. Arterial roads have taken £10,000,000 this year, and there are the schemes associated with the name of my noble friend Lord St. Davids, whom I do not see in his place, in regard to which a very large sum of money has also been authorised, I think as much as £12,000,000.
Then there are certain other matters which I will recite in order to complete the picture. There are the export credit system, the trade facilities system, and the Overseas Settlement provision. All of these are additional remedies for unemployment which were set on foot by the late Government and of which, of course, we are very glad to avail ourselves. These matters all require, and are receiving, the earnest attention of the Government. We want to examine them very carefully to see what blemishes there may be in them, how far they can be extended, and what other remedies can be added to them. But it is on the greater remedy that we rely—namely, the improvement in trade. Perhaps there are already signs of a slight recovery of trade; I think there are. That is the principal hope which lies before us.
I turn from that paragraph in the gracious Speech to say one word upon the principal matter winch will occupy your Lordships' attention during this short session. I refer, of course, to the establishment of a Constitution for Southern Ireland. There is no question that, whatever our previous views upon the Irish question may have been, whether they were like those of my noble friend Lord Erskine or myself, the Irish Constitution must pass. It is evident that it must and ought to pass. The facts are quite simple. We are under a statutory obligation to come to a final arrangement as between Ireland and Great Britain by December 6 of this year. The time is very short, and the 28 Government who have only just succeeded to power have evidently no choice but to carry it through. That is the first fact. The second fact is that we are advised by those whose business it is to advise us, and upon whose legal opinions we are bound to rely, that the Constitution is in accordance with the Treaty. That is the second fact. The third fact is that Parliament, representing the nation, has pledged itself to the Treaty. Those are the three facts.
I have spoken up to now as representing, as it is my bounden duty, His Majesty's Government, but perhaps as I have come to this subject your Lordships will allow me to say one word as to my own personal position. Nothing, of course, is so boring as the intruding of personal considerations before a great assembly like your Lordships, but in the special circumstances of the case you will, perhaps, forgive me. I have a past in respect of this subject, and I am not ashamed of my past. I believe that in the line which some of us took in the late Parliament we were right, and that events have proved we were right. But I know that there are many noble Lords, some of them sitting upon the Treasury Bench, who do not take that view. In the judgment of those of us who acted in opposition to the Treaty the whole policy was a disastrous one, but it was agreed to by Parliament, and in public affairs, in the administration and legislation in this country, the most essential thing is continuity. Once Parliament has pledged itself, as representing the nation, to a particular policy, there is no going back upon it. Great Britain must fulfil its word. I ventured at the time to utter certain warnings to your Lordships, but the House of Commons took a different view, and now, of course, we must proceed upon the other basis. That basis has, indeed, been indicated by the noble Viscount who has just sat down, namely, that we must respect our obligations, respect our pledged word on the one hand to Southern Ireland and on the other hand to Ulster. Those obligations must be treated as absolutely sacred. I have done with the past.
As to the future, we must do our very utmost to make the new state of things in Ireland succeed. There are, at any rate, features of the situation of a satisfactory kind. I think I ought to say, on behalf of the Government, that we have every con- 29 fidence in the good faith of Mr. Cosgrave and of his Government in Ireland. We have no reason to doubt that he will do his best, and I am determined to hope for the best. Though we were a little discouraged by the noble Viscount just now, yet I am sure that I shall only express what he thinks too, when I say that that state of things which we see having been established in Ireland, we must hope that the Government there will get through their difficulty. In order to carry out that policy the Government will lay before Parliament Bills—there will be two Bills—to establish the Constitution in Ireland, and to enact certain consequential provisions which are necessary in order to adapt the Act of 1920 to the new state of things.
I suspect that when your Lordships see these Bills you will note a good many matters which you think are open to very grave criticism. That I do not contest, but there appears to be no choice except to pass the Bills. They might, no doubt, under happier circumstances, have been improved, but I would ask your Lordships to take a wide view of these things. The real hope of any success of the Irish Constitution does not lie in particular provisions of these Bills, whether they are better or worse than they might have been, but lies in the spirit in which the new Irish administration is to be carried out. That is the real thing. If the Provisional Government are imbued with a proper sense of justice, as I have every reason to believe they are, and if they have the power to carry out their wish., if they are able to make good the losses—the most unjustifiable losses—which our loyalist fellow-subjects in Ireland have suffered, then that is one element of hope. Upon them the true responsibility lies, but I should not like your Lordships to think for a moment that we are ourselves not conscious of the responsibility under which we lie towards the loyalists in Ireland. That is fully accepted by His Majesty's Government. The other element is this. The spirit which must prevail in Ireland if the Constitution is to be a success is that it should be administered in a friendly spirit to Great Britain. Unless the Trish people become the friends of Great Britain, and unless their Government administer in that spirit, there is no doubt that the experiment will be a failure. We must hope that in both these respects the Provisional Government will have the will and the power to carry out a good policy.
30 I have tried to deal with the various points which the noble Viscount has sub-mitted to your Lordships, and it only remains for me to appeal to your Lordships to do as you always do—namely, give a generous support to the new Government. We shall do our utmost to deserve the confidence of the House of Commons and of your Lordships, and we rely upon the members of this House, in whatever quarter they sit and whatever views they express, at any rate to do their utmost to discharge the heavy burden which we have undertaken.
§ VISCOUNT BIRKENHEAD
My Lords, I do not rise, as your Lordships will have expected, with the purpose of in any way disturbing the harmony which has marked our discussions to-day. On the contrary, I warmly re-echo the hope with which the noble Marquess closed his speech, and, so far as I am concerned, and any who act with me, it will be our object to respond in the fullest possible manner to the appeal with which the noble Marquess closed his speech. I think perhaps the first observation that I may allow myself is that I hope no one will make the mistake of supposing that the geographical situation which I and some of us have chosen in this House has the slightest political significance. It so happens that for many years, and until I came to this House, I had been accustomed to the convenience of a box, and I prefer it on the whole to speaking without one; and as I see very little opportunity of procuring that convenience upon that side of the House, I have obeyed distinguished precedents—Vixere fortes ante Agamemnona. Other Conservatives have sat upon this Bench before. I have allowed myself to claim to obtrude upon the important discussions which will naturally from time to time take place between the noble Viscount and those of his colleagues who sit around him.
I must make a further preliminary, observation. It would not, I think, be right, or be expected, that having sat in this House for four years upon the Woolsack, I should not make a brief observation at the moment that I leave it. I came here, unlike my successor who was already a member of this House, a complete stranger. Very few of your Lordships had any knowledge of me. For four years I have received in this House a degree of unbroken kindness, support and encouragement, the memory of which will never leave me, 31 and I would make it phi in that I feel, and always shall feel, deep gratitude for that kindness. My successor, if I may be allowed to say so, brings to the Woolsack a wealth of technical learning and wide Parliamentary experience, qualities which will, in the highest degree, qualify him to offer counsel and assistance to your Lordships.
I desire, as I have already indicated, to make it plain that it is an elementary duty on the part of all of us, now that the Government is elected, to give it support. Indeed, in the situation in which the world finds itself to-day it would be a duty to support any Government which was devoting itself to tasks so difficult. Let us be under no delusion. Terrible days lie in front of this country, days as terrible as those which the late Government confronted in the last four years, and those will, indeed, be assuming a grave degree of responsibility who encourage the masses of the people to believe that by some magic move of statecraft they can procure for them the precious gift of tranquillity. Tranquillity is to be found not in the finite brains of statesmen; tranquillity can be found, and only found, in the gradual alleviation of the mischiefs under which to-day the whole civilised world is staggering.
I was glad to hear what fell from the noble Marquess on the subject of Ireland. I do not re-argue that question here. My views have been stated too elaborately and too frequently to make that either a useful or a necessary course. When the noble Marquess, on behalf of himself, said that the whole policy in his judgment was disastrous, I could not help wishing that there had been sitting beside him one far better able than I to dissipate that impression, the Leader of the House, Lord Curzon, who in an eloquent and memorable speech defended the Treaty. The noble Marquess, Lord Curzon, would have been much more likely than I in existing conditions to produce an argumentative impression on the noble Marquess. I note with deep pleasure that just as the two men in Ireland who gave their lives to this cause, Griffith and Collins, in the course of protracted negotiations with us, extended over weeks and months, dissipated the suspicions with which we first confronted them, so I learn from the noble Marquess that within the comparatively short time in which this Government have 32 supported these responsibilities they have formed a clear conclusion and are able, through the noble Marquess, to announce to the House that Mr. Cosgrave and his colleagues are men who are genuinely doing their best and are worthy of the trust and confidence of His Majesty's Government and of this House.
The noble Marquess has dealt, as did also the mover and seconder in their admirable speeches, with the question of unemployment. In spite of the gravity with which the noble Marquess addressed himself to this problem I do not think he did full justice to what is fundamental in its gravity. The gravity lies in this fact, that unless and until some one has conceived and can recommend and carry out a scheme of remedy, which up to the present no economist or Statesman in Europe has thought out, unemployment must be static and endemic in this country and throughout the world. Countries which are self-contained, like the United States of America and the agricultural population of France, have not the same spectre of complete delusion before their eyes in times when unemployment is chronic as we have it in this country.
It is not a question of redeeming 300,000 or 400,000 in nine months, though I welcome the assurance of encouragement which the noble Marquess felt himself able to give under this head. The truth is that you will not deal with it by an improvement in your foreign policy, if you are able to make an improvement in foreign policy. You cannot cure it by that means. You will only cure it when you have discovered newmarkets—substitute markets—for those which the prostration of the world has destroyed for a period of time to which no known prophet has yet been able to assign limits. Vast areas which hitherto have fed your working classes, those who have found work in every one of the great industrial centres in this country, have been stricken down, and no man living can predict when they can be re-created. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that in the four years since the Armistice, in spite of incredible exertions undertaken by the ablest men in Europe, no progress has been made to substitute fresh markets for those which have been lost.
Let us face this question of unemployment with the knowledge, in the first place, as the noble Marquess has most truly said, that the financial resources alike of the men and 33 of the unions are undergoing, and have undergone, progressive exhaustion, and, in the second place, that our policy must be adjusted to the certainty that not for two, or three, or four years, but for ten years, we shall have to continue making these subventions and continue all those expedients, most objectionable in themselves, by which we have attempted in the last four years to deal with the problem. In spite of all that, the gravest problem that has confronted the industrial life of this country since the years immediately following the Napoleonic wan; will remain—how to get stability in the body politic, how to prevent unrest, which is feeding on legitimate grievances and, as was said in loose talk yesterday, loading to the possible destruction of the ordered form and basis of our society. That alone will require all the resources of the most powerful Governments aided by all sections in both Houses.
There is one other circumstance on which I wish to say a word. The noble Viscount, Lord Grey, says that he is glad the Coalition has gone. I defended the Coalition Government for four years in this House. I was never under the slightest delusion as to the difficulty of that task. I was never under the slightest delusion as to the opinion which the overwhelming majority of your Lordships Lad formed of the Coalition Government. Occasionally, I affected to conceal it, but I am not a less observant man than my neighbours, and now that the Coalition is dead, whether it is attacked by the noble Viscount or by any one else, I am not going to begin to repeat apologies for forming and stating which I no longer receive emoluments.
I must be allowed, being human, to make this observation: that it does not in the least surprise me to discover that the noble Viscount is glad the Coalition has gone. He and his friends for a long time have made it quite plain that their principal enemies in the country are not the Unionists, the Conservative Party, and are not the Labour Party. It has been notorious that the only man whom the noble Viscount and his friends wished to destroy was the late Prime Minister. That, indeed, they have not done. The late Prime Minister and his Government have fallen, but he would be of a carping disposition who would make public expression of the pleasure which this melancholy spectacle has given to himself and his friends.
34 Let me, if I may, add this. We have had some discussion upon the subject of Mesopotamia and Palestine. Those subjects are far too important to engage my attention at the close of our discussions to-night. A reservation has been made in relation to Palestine, but, if I understood rightly the view expressed and the statement made by the noble Marquess, it is to the effect t hat discussion and examination are taking place at the present time as to whether or not we should leave Mesopotamia.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
What I said was that we were inquiring into what our commitments are in Mesopotamia. We are ascertaining the facts.
§ VISCOUNT BIRKENHEAD
I am much obliged; it is a very important point. The noble Marquess is good enough to inform me that the Government are inquiring into the extent of our commitments. I do not think the inquiry ought to take very long, because Lord Curzon, after all, is probably rather well-informed on that subject, and Mr. Bonar Law was the second responsible Minister at the time the Treaty of Versailles was entered into. He was more responsible than anyone else, except Mr. Lloyd George, at that time—he and Lord Curzon. Humble people like myself were not even consulted as to whether we should stay, or even go to Palestine or Mesopotamia. In fact, I was travelling on a tour for the Government in the middle of the war in the United States of America when I was first refreshed by the news that we were to make this effort on behalf of the Jews in Palestine, so that I had not quite the same degree of responsibility as Mr. Bonar Law and Lord Curzon. I really should have thought that in the four years that have elapsed since the Armistice the approximate extent of our commitments would have been discovered by those two very sagacious and observant statesmen, and I am therefore greatly encouraged to hope that this inquiry may reach a goal within an approximately short period. Perhaps in a month, or in two months, when they have 35 looked through their note books, examined their diaries and recollected their conversations concerning the not unimportant events out of which these commitments sprang, we may be afforded some further information, and I shall make bold, if the noble Marquess will allow me to do so, to put down a Question, in order that we may learn the result of this perhaps somewhat overdue inquiry.
Now I wish to deal with another point, a very grave one, but, before I do so, I think an observation might be made with reference to what Lord Grey said concerning our foreign policy—I mean, of course, the foreign policy of the late Government. I would point out, in passing, that the great eulogy upon the work of the League of Nations which Lord Grey has passed might, perhaps, in one small particular, have qualified the evident degree of his contempt for the late Government and for its foreign policy. I might at least point out that no country in the whole world did half as much for the League of Nations as this country; that more is owing, in money, in encouragement and in resources of every kind, to the efforts of this country than to the efforts of any country in the world; and that no individuals have contributed more than Lord Balfour Lord Robert Cecil and Mr. Fisher to the League of Nations. This, perhaps, is a small instance which might have been excepted from the general censure of Lord Grey.
But I wish to make it quite plain—though I think the present occasion not suitable for a detailed discussion—that I do not accept Lord Grey's censures upon the foreign policy of the late Government, but that I have the good fortune to agree with Lord Curzon on that point. I will only remind him—I hope without the smallest discourtesy, because I should be very unwise to attempt even the least discourtesy at the expense of one whose near neighbour I am likely to be for a considerable time—I will make only this observation, that foreign policy and the topics which foreign policy presents at grave moments are, let me assure him, very disputable matters. Different views have been taken as to the foreign policy pursued even by very distinguished British statesmen, and if Lord Grey imagines that there is unanimity of enthusiasm for his own foreign policy on one or two most critical occasions of our history, let me 36 assure him that he is labouring under a complete delusion, and it may be that occasion will arise for developing these propositions a little more closely.
I said that one other very grave topic remained. It is the question of the new representation of Labour in another place. I wonder whether your Lordships have observed how swift has been the increase in Labour representation, how pregnant with consequences that increase must be. I remember an Election, not many years ago, to which the first Labour Member of Parliament, the first Socialist Member of Parliament, Mr. Keir Hardie, was returned. Then came another Election, and there were three. Then a third Election, and I think there were 24. Then came the Armistice Election, and to-day there sit there 150—I take the round figure. Just think what that means. The noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, spoke of the reason why the constituencies had reached this verdict. I do not wish in any way to disparage the undoubted success which the Government have met—not for one moment. But be it observed that the verdict that has been obtained is one which can be examined only with qualified enthusiasm by the supporters of the Government. You appealed to the country, and, as the result of that appeal, and when all allowance is made for the seats that have not been contested, the result is that the supporters of the Government have polled 2,500,000 fewer votes than all those Parties whose votes were given against the Government.
I am aware that some further deductions can be made, but this at least is apparent, that under any system of Proportional Representation or a substituted vote a very different state of affairs would have resulted from this poll and this verdict, and that circumstance in itself makes it necessary to examine the new position and pretensions of Labour with even more care than would otherwise be called for. The Conservative Party polled at the last Election some 5,000,000 votes—more than 5,000,000, but I do not carry in my mind the precise figure. The Labour Party, if I recall the figure rightly, polled something like 4,000,000. That circumstance, in itself, is a staggering circumstance; 5,000,000 odd voted for the Conservative Party, and some 4,000,000 voted for a Party which we ought never to allow to describe itself as a Labour Party, We all know that no Member could ever sit for an industrial 37 constituency except as the result of Labour support. I sat for twelve years for a large industrial constituency, receiving the support of the trade unionist members themselves. The name we ought to give this Party is its true name. It is the Socialist Party. That increases enormously the terrible character of the reflections which must occur to the minds of every one of us.
If it be true that the proportion of votes polled for our Party, for the Party which maintains the whole order and equilibrium of the State, is in such a relation to the votes which have been polled to-day on behalf of those who would pull down the whole prop and pillar on which our civilisation depends, is it not obvious that here, and nowhere else, is the enemy against whom the efforts of every sane politician and statesman ought to have been directed in the past, and must collectively be directed in the future? Unless now, while there may still be time, we address ourselves to these problems in a new and graver spirit, we shall find, or we may find, at the next appeal to the country, when perhaps employment may not have improved, when the resources of the trades unions may be greater or may be smaller—no man can predict upon that point—that this Party, in this highly industrial community, has found itself in a majority, which, however small, in six months can destroy all the results of hundreds of years of commercial activity and of the genius of our people.
I hope, indeed, that men of all Parties will realise that the principal service they can render to the country in the next few years is to give educational help to those who are devoting themselves to the prevention of the spread of the fallacies of which I have spoken. If we do not, one more Election showing results like the last and the King's Speeches of days to come will contain very different messages. A few days ago one representative of these newly elected Members was heard to observe in this House, rudely and audibly, "We will soon sweep this place away." Well, if they had their way, and obtained a majority, there are other institutions in this country to which the hostility of some of them would soon be directed.
I have said enough to make it plain that. I take too grave a view of the situation to-day to excite any apprehension that any small capacity that I possess will be used in any direction except assisting the 38 efforts of the new Government. I go further, and I say, that if they succeed in their great tasks—and they are realising themselves how great they are—there is no one in this House who will more sincerely rejoice and congratulate them than I.
§ LORD NEWTON
My Lords, I do not rise for the purpose of disturbing the tranquillity of the proceedings, which are even more peaceful and tranquil than is usually the case, but because I desire to make some observations with regard to that portion of the Speech which relates to the Near East. My reason for doing so is that it so happens that I was in the Near East during the whole crisis, and there are certain misconceptions which appear to me to prevail. Even no less a person than the Leader of the Opposition appears to be under some misconception. During the passage of his speech which related to this particular question, it was quite obvious that the noble Viscount held the view that our conduct, as regards Allies, was not altogether what it our ought to have been, and I am anxious to show, as shortly as possible, that there is no foundation whatever for any criticism of the kind.
Shortly stated the facts are as follows: In the middle of September we were confronted by a most dangerous and alarming crisis. The Turks had practically destroyed the Greek forces; they were in possession of Smyrna, and they were advancing towards the Straits and Constantinople, with the obvious object of turning us out and occupying those regions. Their object was perfectly plain. They desired to be in possession and then enter upon a Conference afterwards. In fact, their obvious intention was to present the Allies with afait accompli. At that time we had only a very minute force at Chanak, in the Dardanelles, a very important point. We had something like 1,000 men and a few Italians. We called upon our Allies, as we had every right to do, to come to our assistance. They had recently called upon us to protect Constantinople from the invading Greeks, and it was open to us to call upon them. On the more or less historic date, September 16, I was at Chanak, and saw the French troops disembarking to assist our contingent. On September 19 the French and Italian Commissioners called upon Sir Horace Rumbold and admitted, to their infinite regret, and almost shame, that they 39 had received instructions to withdraw the French and Italian contingents.
There have been various explanations on the part of our Allies. I think the Leader of the Opposition attributes it to the somewhat flamboyant language addressed to the Dominions. Personally, I cannot see what right the French or the Italians have to object to any appeal that we may make to our fellow citizens. It has also been explained by the fact that in some way or other the Angora Agreement operated; and M. Poincaré furnished an explanation himself, and informed the French Chamber that the French troops were withdrawn because the military advisers considered that the position was untenable. The reason does not matter. What does really matter was the actual operation, and the withdrawal of these troops was nothing less than a disaster. It created a disastrous impression, and no European in the Near East, Frenchman and Italian included, ever had the smallest doubts on the subject. Then, to make matters worse, a gentleman well-known by name, M. Franklin Bouillon, was sent to Smyrna to negotiate with the Nationalists, and the actual selection of this man was a confession of weakness, because he was little removed from being a Turkish Agent.
M. Franklin Bouillon, having got to Smyrna, took upon himself to assure the Turks that in no circumstances would this country resist by force. He then returned to Constantinople and informed everybody that resistance was impossible, that the Turkish Army was irresistible, and that 300,000,000 of Mussulmen were standing solidly beside the Turks—Mussulmen in other parts of the world. I might add, incidentally, that to no one was M. Franklin Bouillon's presence more unwelcome than to the French representatives at Constantinople. I should like to ask the noble Viscount, if he were here, what would have happened if, instead of taking action, we had entered into complicated negotiations with the Allies as to what we ought to do? The situation would have been what it was five hundred years ago, with the Turks knocking at the walls of Constantinople, and the Greeks and Latins disputing over sonic trumpery question.
The policy of the Allies was that in no event was force to be used. There was only one alternative in that case, and that was to retire altogether. Retirement would 40 have meant, in the first place, that the sacrifice of the lives of 50,000 British subjects in Gallipoli would have been so much waste. It would have meant the risk of a fresh war in South-Eastern Europe. It would have meant a serious, if not a fatal, blow to all European interests in Turkey, and it would also have meant the complete, or almost complete, destruction of our prestige in our own Eastern Empire. It would have been a set-back to civilisation generally, and, among other things, it would have meant, in all probability, the massacre of thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands, of Christians in Constantinople itself.
I do not think that anybody who has not been in Constantinople itself can realise what the state of affairs is there. It was bad enough when I was there. I do not mean that Englishmen and Frenchmen and Italians are in danger, but the Christian population is living in a state of panic, which I can best illustrate by the following incident. I happened, during the course of my visit, to come in contact with the Œcumenical Patriarch, who occupies in the Greek Church very much the same position as the most rev. Primate does here. That high official informed me in confidence—and I have not the smallest hesitation in stating now what he said—that, if the Nationalists returned, his own life was in most imminent danger, and he begged me urgently to represent his case to the British High Commissioner.
If a person in that high position is in danger, you can well imagine what the position must be of the unfortunate Christians belonging to the lower classes, who have nobody to protect them. I am assured that at this moment there are hundreds of these people who are sheltering at the Embassy. It will stand to the eternal credit of the Coalition Government, of whom we hear so little good now, that they stood firm, and I believe that their action and their decision to stand firm with a few hundred men at Chanak and confront the advancing Turk will always be quoted in history as one of the great successes of British foreign policy, and as an act of courage and decision upon our part at an extremely difficult moment.
§ Loan NEWTON
The noble Viscount said, with great truth, that we are not out 41 of danger yet. I agree with him. But what I hope is that the present Government will stand firm, and will follow the policy of the late Government. I am absolutely convinced that if we do stand firm our Allies will fall in with our policy, and we shall be shown to have been right all through.
There is one further misconception which I should like to remove. There has always been in this country a party which calls itself a philo-Turkish party, and I admit that in former days I was somewhat of a philo-Turk myself. But we are now dealing with a totally different set of persons from the former governing class of Turkey. The old Turk, as we knew him, had much to recommend him, and I often felt, and often knew, that he was more sinned against than sinning. But the people that we have to deal with now, represented by the Nationalist Turks, are aggressive, intolerant, anti-religious. They are not anti-British, they are anti-European, and, worse than all, they are in close alliance with—I might almost say in subjection to—the Russian Bolsheviks. Although they are too stupid to know it, they are acting as the instruments of the Bolshevist Government. And the object of all this movement is perfectly plain. It is to get rid of European influence in Constantinople, and then to replace it by Bolshevist influence. I may add—a fact which is probably known to certain noble Lords here—that the designs of the Russian Bolsheviks with regard to the Near East and to Constantinople are precisely the same designs as those which animated the policy of Imperial Russia.
I have said more than I intended, but I think that the observations of a person who has been able to follow the course of events may not be entirely unwelcome. I need hardly say that I sincerely trust that we shall not abandon the policy which we have adopted, and that we shall work as far as possible in conjunction with our Allies. I feel equally convinced that the firmer our attitude is the more certain it is that our Allies will act loyally in conjunction with us.
§ LORD LAMINGTON
My Lords, may I say one word in reference to the remarks of the noble Lord who has just spoken. It might seem that when he condemned the present Young Turkrégime he thereby ceased to have any sympathy, not only 42 with the old Turk, but with the Turkish people generally. I should imagine that those who are now the leaders of the Turkish movement, the Angora movement, are a very small class indeed, and, seeing that the noble Lord himself admitted that he had been a pro-Turk in the past, it would he unfortunate if it were put about that, because a small section of Turks has got control of affairs at the present moment, the hulk of the Turkish people are thereby deprived of the sympathy of those who have hitherto been their friends. The noble Lord cannot mean that. These may be very undesirable people.
§ LORD LAMINGTON
They have control for the moment by reason chiefly of the fact, as the noble Lord said, that they have the support of the Bolsheviks. I saw an Arab gentleman yesterday who enlarged on this mint very forcibly indeed. He said that Bolshevist gold not only penetrates into Western Europe, but that it is the source of all the disquiet in the Near East at the present time. I do not believe for a moment that because, in these unhappy circumstances, those who are directing Turkish policy at present have got, and are working with, the sympathy of the Bolsheviks, the whole of the Turkish people are thereby tainted, or have any real desire to work with the Bolsheviks, and I think it right that they should understand that we can sympathise with them in their difficulty.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, I should like to be allowed to supplement what was said by Lord Newton with what seems to me to be the necessary conclusion, or one of the necessary conclusions, to which his remarks—true, as I believe them to be—naturally lead. He referred to the position held by that great man who is at present the Patriarch of the Orthodox community of the East. I have been in closest touch with him for a very long time, and that circumstance, with others, has led to my knowing pretty accurately what has been happening, what are the apprehensions, and how grave is the reality of them, in these regions. I believe that in this country at present very few people are abreast of the magnitude or of the character of the disaster that is now happening, 43 with far greater possibilities impending—appalling destitution, and probably disease and famine among the multitudes who have been, as the result of recent events, scattered in a way that no one anticipated a short time ago.
People speak of the sufferings of the Christian people of the East at this moment, and the phrase has rather lost its power to stir, or to quicken the pulse of, those who hear it. The country ought to realise that we are at this moment the contemporary witnesses of something more appalling in its character and extent than any misfortune of the kind which the world has ever seen. There are at this moment not less than a million and a half of persons, the great proportion of whom were not members of the poorer classes a little while ago, who are to-day literally without the means of subsistence, or shelter, or a home of any kind whatever. When we say that they are literally possessed only of what they stand upright in we have to recollect that a great part of that, if it was worth anything, has been taken away by the people who have oppressed them. At this moment there is an enormous flow of refugees from the Anatolian coast, from the southern coast of the Black Sea, from Eastern Thrace, and from other parts of that region to which one could easily refer, who are being pitchforked, one might say, upon the rest of the Christian populations now existing in the East who are without any means of receiving them, while the refugees themselves are without any means of making even the smallest contribution towards their own maintenance and support.
A terrific and increasing flow of these people is coming from several quarters. It is coming from what we may call the Smyrna region, that part of Anatolia which is the hinterland of Smyrna, and Smyrna itself. It is coming also from the northern parts of Asia Minor and the southern coast of the Black Sea. It is coming, or will come, from Eastern Thrace, now depopulated of its Christian population; and it is coming, for good or ill, in some considerable flow already from Constantinople, with the possibility that the flow may increase to a degree which it is terrible even to contemplate. Its scale as well as its character is not at this moment being realised at all as a vast contemporary fact far beyond the possibility of private charity to grapple with, and one calling for the thought of 44 European statesmanship and the intervention of European funds if appalling dangers are to be stayed—dangers of pestilence which may spread to a degree that it is impossible to calculate, dangers of devastation or of famine which are already appalling the world as we look upon them and which would be something without parallel in human history. These facts are not realised to-day. These people have been expelled from vast regions in some of which they were prosperous before, in others of which they were struggling before, and they have been landed practically anywhere on the coast, in many cases on the mere coastline, where they literally sit down to starve.
I have been in the closest touch with those who have to deal with these people day by day, and are watching in Salonika, in Athens, in the Pyræus and in Smyrna, what is now taking place. Take the position in Salonika. Three or four years ago a third of Salonika was burnt down and has not yet been rebuilt. The result of that was that the population, already very crowded, was so congested that three people had to occupy the space which was occupied by two people before, with the result of difficulty and disease, and so on. In addition to that hundreds of thousands of people are now being, tumbled in with no possibility of finding homes or refuges of any kind. These circumstances call for a great and statesmanlike endeavour on the part of somebody to try to relieve the necessities of those people as they stand. I have received, and do receive, constant accounts from the Pyræus and Athens, where the floors of the ordinary goods sheds and stations are simply covered with people sitting down on them without food or adequate covering, waiting for somebody to give them a morsel of bread to eat. And these people are not those who have been accustomed to hardships of that kind, but people who were more or less prosperous at one time.
Those are two only of the many places in which these horrible scenes are taking place. The account of what is happening is to the effect that the people from Eastern Thrace are pushing their way southwards to Dedeagatch and to other ports where they are finding it impossible to embark. The account of what is happening and of the condition of things almost baffles belief. Here is a telegram which came to 45 hand the other day, and aptly sums up the situation—Twenty thousand refugees are encamped like a great army in tents provided by the Greek military. All approaches to the town are choked with refugees and their ox-carts crawling towards Macedonia. Estimate that fifty thousand have been travelling afoot for ten days. Majority of them without food or water. The rain and cold increases the suffering, causing many deaths. An utter lack of sanitation threatens cholera and typhoid. Scarlatina broke out to-day. Doctors, nurses and medicine imperative. Greatest suffering among babies, owing to lack of milk. Many children being born in the camps and on the roads without any medical attention. The towns of Drama and Kavalla and all roads leading to Macedonia are full of exhausted Thracians who are on the verge of starvation. …That is a condition of things which prevails now in Eastern Europe, not in one place but in many, and, so far as I can judge, there is in this country I will not say apathy about it but an unwillingness to believe in the magnitude or the character of the evil which may result if the thing grows from bad as it is to something which is infinitely worse.
If it should come about that from Constantinople itself the Christian population, whether Armenian or Greek, should be forced to fly, one can imagine what that, on the top of all this, would probably mean. The Greek islands can, so to speak, hold no more people. The Greek coasts are covered in the way I have endeavoured to describe, and what would happen to those people if the means of transporting them were found I do not care to contemplate. I might enlarge, as my noble friend Lord Newton has done, on the position of the Patriarch in Constantinople, standing to his post like a man and begging his people not unnecessarily to get into a condition of panic, knowing all the while, as he does, that he is on the edge of a terrible catastrophe, a catastrophe of such magnitude, as would stagger the world. He, of course, would be among the first of the victims.
I mention that subject to-day because the condition of Eastern affairs has been referred to, and the question as to whether the Turk is a good handler of a problem of this kind has been a matter of some little debate. I want to press it upon your Lordships that this situation calls as much as anything can for the intervention of the statesmanship of Europe if. We are not to see something which it is impossible to contemplate without a thought of what it will mean in the way 46 of danger as well as of sorrow and regret to Europe as a whole.
We are faced with abundant troubles and difficulties. We have our unemployment problems at home. We have what I feel for most deeply and strongly, the terrors and the wrongs of Ireland and the sufferings of those who have left Ireland as a result. But we must not allow even those things to blind us to the magnitude of something which we have lived to witness, which world has never seen on a like scale before, and which, if it is not handled in a more or less statesmanlike way by the nations of Europe or the League of Nations to-day, may lead to consequences which it is impossible to discuss. The Imperial War Relief Fund is endeavouring to deal with the position to the best of its power in conjunction with the other agencies who are all working perfectly harmoniously together for that relief. The imperial war relief body will do everything it can, but it is impossible to imagine that this matter can satisfactorily be left to voluntary aid. It is far too large in its extent, far too difficult in its character, to be thus handled, and I should have been sorry if we had discussed the European question even slightly tonight without my calling attention to contemporary facts which I am certain are not realised as they ought to be.
My Lords, I desire to speak for one moment, and only for one moment, and I am sorry to say that it is to express my regret for an omission from His Majesty's gracious Speech. In the concluding part of it this statement is made: "The state of trade and employment continues to cause Me deep concern." My regret is that His Majesty's Government did not see fit to include agriculture. I cannot imagine that it has not been considered, and I hope that the noble Marquess may be able to give the House before it rises some assurance that this subject has given His Majesty grave concern, and that it will receive the earliest possible attention. At the same time, I cannot help expressing my opinion that the omission of a reference to agriculture is a mistake on the part of His Majesty's Government.
§ LORD WESTER WEMYSS
My Lords, it seems to me that there can be no harm in reiterating truths which are perhaps not well known. I therefore venture to 47 associate myself very strongly with all the remarks that fell from Lord Newton. It seems to me that we are in the great difficulty and great danger of looking upon these Angora Turks as the Turks of our old acquaintanceship and of our old friendship. They are not so by any manner of means. They are, as they were described to me by a most eminent French authority the other day, nothing but a rabble. They have only obtained this victory because the enemy in front of them would not fight. This victory is illusory, and has given them in their own eyes a halo which certainly no one who knows them will give to them. The Angora Turk, for any strength in organisation that he has, is entirely dependent upon Moscow, upon the Soviet Government, who is his master. If that fact is overlooked, whatever may be the result of the negotiations which are now going on at Lausanne, we shall in future certainly suffer for the mistake that is made. I hope sincerely that the true situation is realised by the whole of the British public, because it is one which anybody who knows the actual state of things can vouch for without the slightest hesitation.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, perhaps you will allow me to reply in two sentences to the remarks which have been made by a number of speakers. As regards the terrible condition of the refugees in Turkey, I can tell the most reverend Primate that we listened to his observations with deep sympathy. The matter is very grave indeed, but I am sure he will forgive me for not saying more now. The Government have been in office only a few days, and we really should be most unwise to enter into any promises, but I should like the most reverend Primate and your Lordships to realise how deeply we feel the gravity of the situation of these unfortunate people.
As to the other matters relating to Turkey, spoken of by two or three noble Lords, they are right in saying that the modern Turks, and the kind of forces with which we have to contend, are quite different from those of the old days. His Majesty's Government are fully alive to these distinctions, but I think your Lord- 48 ships will realise that in speaking at this moment it would not be right for me to deal in any detail with the difficulties of the Near East. The Conference is actually sitting, and I could do no good, but should do nothing but harm, by dealing with it further.
As regards agriculture, I am afraid that I have no answer to give except that we are fully alive to the difficulties of agriculture. I suppose there is no member of your Lordships' House who does not own agricultural land, and every one of us knows, in his own person and purse, what the condition of things is. I need not tell the House that we shall pay every attention to it. As for the particular steps to be taken, it would he too soon to make any announcement at present, but if my noble friend will allow me to communicate with him later I may then perhaps be able to say more.
§ On Question, Motion agreed tonemine dissentiente, and Address ordered to be presented to His Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.