§ LORD CUSHENDUN had the following Notice on the Paper:—To ask His 130 Majesty's Government whether they are still endeavouring to renew negotiations for a concordat between the ecclesiastical and civil authorities in Malta; whether the former have yet given orders which will restore to the electorate of the Colony complete freedom to exercise their political judgment; and how long it is expected that it may be necessary to suspend the holding of elections in the Colony; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Lord said:—My Lords, the Question and the Motion standing in my name on the Paper were put down rather more for the sake of obtaining information from the Government than with any idea of criticising what they have done up to the present. In the year 1921, wisely or unwisely—I do not express any opinion upon that—a self-governing Constitution was given to the Island of Malta, and there seems from the first to have been a state of friction existing in that Colony between the civil and ecclesiastical authorities. The latter while professing, a s they always do, to confine their activities to matters of faith and morals and not to interfere in politics, have, II think, pretty clearly shown that they do not know how to distinguish between the two, at all events according to British ideas. The Prime Minister, the responsible constitutional Prime Minister of the Colony of Malta, is, as your Lord-, ships know, a member of your Lordships' House, my noble friend Lord Strickland, and the recent friction which has taken place has very largely centred round him, as I shall show to your Lordships in a few moments by a reference to the White Paper issued by the Government.
§ The friction between these two sets of authorities, at all events in its recent aspects, seems to have originated by an order which was given by some foreign ecclesiastic to a British subject, a peremptory order to leave the Island of Malta. He was a British subject; he had a perfect right to be there, and of course no ecclesiastical authority had any right to turn him out. The Government of Malta, naturally, could not permit a high-handed action of that sort, and they intervened, but so little comprehension had the Vatican of the constitutional position of a self-governing British Colony that the Cardinal Secretary of State, Cardinal Gasparri, actually complained to the British Minister at the Vatican, Mr. Chilton, 131 of the action of the Government, on this ground—I call your Lordships' attention to the ground upon which they complained—the ground of the "serious consequence to ecclesiastical discipline which such an action of the civil authorities may lead to." And he actually went on to demand that His Majesty's Government—not the Government of Malta, but that His Majesty's Government should give appropriate instructions to the Maltese authorities in order—these are his own words—"to reassure the Holy See."
§ In reply Mr. Chilton, our representative at the Vatican, put the Cardinal right upon several points. He did not tell him in so many words that it was no part of this duty, and no part of the duty of His Majesty's Government, to reassure the Holy See, but he did point out, in very forcible language, that the order which had been given to the British subject to leave the Island had caused popular indignation, and embarrassment to His Majesty's Government, and he went on, under instructions from home, to make the suggestion, with a view to clearing up this state of friction, that an independent investigation should be held in Malta by a representative of the Holy See. This was accepted, and, in consequence, an ecclesiastical power, an Archbishop with the title of Delegate Apostolic, was appointed to go to Malta and to carry out an investigation. The personage was Mgr. Robinson. The British Government had same knowledge of this gentleman, who had been concerned with matters in which we were interested in other parts of the world previously, and the appointment of him caused us lively satisfaction. He was believed to be in every way suitable for the purpose, and to be in every way friendly to us, and the Foreign Secretary, when his name was mentioned as having been appointed for this purpose, telegraphed to Mr. Chilton warmly approving of this appointment.
§ This gentleman went to Malta, and I think your Lordships will see, if you read or have read the collection of Papers in the White Paper, that his behaviour, when he arrived in Malta and later, was very extraordinary. On the 29th May of last year the Governor, Sir John Du Cane, reported to the Colonial Office that Mgr. Robinson had conducted a thorough inquiry, with 132 marked courtesy and tact, and in a most satisfactory manner. Everything gave the greatest satisfaction. They had had very friendly meetings. Notes had been taken which were expressed to be for the purpose of forming the basis for a concordat between His Majesty's Government and the Holy See, and the Governor of Malta telegraphed or wrote—I think it was a telegram—that he had personally had an interview with Mgr. Robinson, the Delegate Apostolic, that he had exchanged views with him, that this representative of the Holy See and he had had a most friendly discussion, and that he anticipated, arising out of his Mission, a most friendly conversation would take place in Rome, presumably between Mr. Chilton and Cardinal Gasparri.
§ That was on the 29th May. There was no hint at that time of any sort of hostile action on the part of the representative of the Vatican, and, as I have told your Lordships, everything appeared to be going very smoothly and comfortably. But within a month an entirely different complexion was put upon the whole matter. I must say, reading the account in the Government White Paper, that it is very difficult to account for it. It is almost unintelligible to me. One does not like, of course, to accuse so distinguished a man as the Papal Representative and an Archbishop of acting treacherously or even of acting with duplicity. All one can do in those circumstances is to wonder how in the world the Governor of Malta and the Prime Minister and other Ministers of Malta all came to form a completely false idea of what was in Mgr. Robinson's mind and how he intended to act. He was acting in point of fact, as we now know from subsequent Papers, in the most hostile spirit. His report made to the Vatican, I may say, has never been published unless it has been in the Press in the last day or two. I understand that the text of it was promised, but it has never been published, unless it has been published in the last few days by the Press. Anyhow, without a word of warning to Sir John Du Cane or to the Ministry of Malta, with whom he had been in friendly communication, without any notice of the conclusions to which he had apparently come, he procured the writing of a letter from the Cardinal-Secretary in Rome to the Bishops of 133 Malta and Gozo. A copy of that letter was sent to Mr. Chilton on July 2. With it was sent a covering letter explaining that the object of this letter, which came almost like a bolt from the blue into this entirely unsuspecting meeting of Ministers and the Governor of Malta, was intended publicly to inform the Maltese people that Lord Strickland was not persona grata to the Holy See.
§ It is rather difficult to characterise in moderate language conduct of that sort, but the facts speak very well for themselves, and one can only assume that this language was used and this attitude taken up in complete ignorance of the whole constitutional theory upon which our Government either in this country or elsewhere rests. Lord Strickland was a responsible Minister, the head of a responsible Government popularly elected by the people of a British Colony. These people are, it is quite true, for the most part devout Catholics, as is Lord Strickland himself. Mr. Chilton could not therefore reply that it was a complete matter of indifference to him and to all of us whether the British Prime Minister was or was not persona grata to the Holy See. In the circumstances of the Colony he could not use language of that sort. He had to restrain himself, with, I should think, a good deal of difficulty. At first sight the insolence of such an expression of opinion with regard to the Prime Minister of a British Colony requires one to assume, I think, as I say, that it was entirely a matter of ignorance. This is still more apparent if we look at the pro-memoriâ which accompanied Cardinal Gasparri's letter. He made a number of charges and revealed his hostility to Lord Strickland by reference to a number of anonymous witnesses—anonymous hearsay—which he quoted as having been witnesses whom he had examined in Malta. It turns out now, I think pretty clearly, that, although there may have been witnesses such as he referred to who confirm what he thought, he really was writing of his own motion and writing his own report. These anonymous witnesses made a number of most damaging allegations in regard to the civil Administration of Malta.
I would ask your Lordships to notice the language that Mgr. Robinson used
under cover of these anonymous witnesses. What was said about Lord Strickland was that—
… although Lord Strickland claims to be the champion of Imperial British prestige, in reality he is acting in contradiction to the best traditions of the Empire and is damaging its real interests.
Now, if that had been said by the ordinary constitutional Opposition to the Prime Minister in Malta one would have thought nothing of it. It is the sort of language which politicians use about their opponents without reproach. But that is quite a different thing from its being said by someone in the position of an emissary of the Vatican sent down to Malta to carry out an impartial inquiry with a view to getting over the friction that existed there. It is insolence to say that this Prime Minister, who presumably satisfied his own constituents and whom his constituents fancied, rightly or wrongly, was representing British interests—I say it is insolent for a person like Mgr. Robinson to say publicly that this Prime Minister "is acting in contradiction to the best traditions of the Empire and is damaging its real interests." In other words, this means that election by the people counts for nothing, that the responsibility of Ministers counts for nothing. The Prime Minister is to be swept aside, not by any hostile movement of his political opponents, but because in the opinion of a handful of irresponsible clerical gentlemen he is supposed to be damaging the interests of the Empire which his constituents think he is serving.
To this Memorandum and to Cardinal Gasparri's letter to the Bishops the Ministry under Lord Strickland, the Ministry in Malta, made an elaborate but not too elaborate reply. They dealt with the matter fully. In that reply they said that the statements made by Cardinal Gasparri's anonymous informant—that is to say by Mgr. Robinson—were "a string of malicious and infamous misstatements." The responsible Ministers make one very grave charge against the ecclesiastical authorities, and on this point I want to ask a definite question of the noble Lord who is to reply to my observations. They say:—
It is greatly deplored that the Holy See has been unconsciously misled into lending
the assistance of its great prestige and power to what is nothing less than a conspiracy against British rule in Malta.
I want to ask the noble Lord to what extent His Majesty's Government can endorse that statement of opinion. There is nothing by which we can judge how far there is any conspiracy, or anything in the nature of a conspiracy, in Malta against British rule, and I think it would be very desirable if the noble Lord opposite could tell us what the Government can say upon that point.
§ Then in August of last year Mr. Chilton addressed to the Vatican a very sharp Note in which he reviewed the whole dispute and used language unusually strong in diplomatic correspondence. He had his instructions, of course, from the Foreign Secretary. Mr. Chilton, I should tell your Lordships, had asked that an interview might be arranged between Lord Strickland and the representative of the Vatican while the former was passing through Rome, and in reply to this request, made by the official diplomatic representative of His Majesty at the Vatican, he was told that the head of the Maltese Ministry was not persona grata, and was not to be received by anyone at the Vatican. Mr. Chilton very rightly hesitated before accepting that reply. I have known instances in which a diplomatic reply was couched in such insulting language that our representative had to decline to receive it. Mr. Chilton hesitated to receive this one, and I am not at all sure that he would not have done better to persist in his refusal. However, he did not do so. He and the Government were rightly anxious to avoid increasing the friction which already existed. They were very anxious to be conciliatory, and Mr. Chilton pointed out to the Cardinal that the Vatican must not misunderstand him if His Majesty's Government took up a very moderate attitude and must not take advantage of it.
§ Then, with the greatest forbearance, His Majesty's Government went on hoping to enter into negotiations with the Vatican, and there was further correspondence on this subject in the course of which the Cardinal Secretary still simulated, or apparently simulated, willingness to further peaceable negotiations. On October 13 he expressed his confidence of a happy understanding be- 136 ing likely to arise out of the negotiations which were then being pressed on, and it was only when Mr. Chilton, under instructions, began to discuss questions of the procedure under which these negotiations should be conducted that, after all these months, Cardinal Gasparri turned round and said that it was no use having negotiations as long as Lord Strickland was in office in Malta, that he was persona non grata and that it was obviously no use to attempt to get over the friction or to have any peaceable arrangements so long as he was there. Mr. Chilton again spoke in very strong and, so far as the usual practice is concerned, undiplomatic language about the gross discourtesy of this Note as supplied to him and attempted still to induce the Vatican to carry on negotiations. It was all no use, and it was quite clear from first to last that they had no intention of carrying out any negotiations so long as Lord Strickland had any office in Malta or anything to do with the Government.
§ I want to ask the noble Lord opposite what, in these circumstances, the Government propose to do. I see that it is stated in the newspapers, and I think it was stated in answer to a Question in another place yesterday, that they have suspended the Constitution in Malta. I do not know the ins and outs of the Maltese Constitution, and I should like to ask the noble Lord what power they have to suspend the Constitution and what the suspension of the Constitution actually means. I can only say that I hope it does not mean any undermining of the authority of Lord Strickland. In the circumstances of what has happened, the insulting messages that have been sent to our representative in Rome, the insults offered to His Majesty's Government—I am not speaking of Lord Strickland—and conveyed through Lord Strickland, I say that it would be deplorable if His Majesty's Government were so far to play into the hands of these ecclesiastical authorities as to do anything that would weaken the authority of Lord Strickland in Malta. His authority in Malta ought not to depend, and does not depend, upon His Majesty's Government. It depends on the popular Constitution of the Colony, and as long as his constituents choose to retain him I 137 think that he deserves and ought to receive the support of His Majesty's Government.
§ I hope, therefore, that the noble Lord will assure me that the Government will not allow this conspiracy, if it is a conspiracy, or at all events this animosity, so far to prevail as to allow Lord Strickland, as the constitutional Minister of Malta, to be in any way weakened or undermined by the success of these efforts. I repeat that I should like to know also to what extent there is any reason to suppose that all this constitutional upheaval in Malta represents any conspiracy against British rule. I should also like to hear, if I may, from the noble Lord, if he can give an authoritative answer, what truth there is in what has appeared several times in the Press—namely, a representation that there is a pro-Italian party in Malta which is really attempting to use the ecclesiastical authorities and the odium that they have cast on the civil authorities with a view to promoting their aims as an Italian party, opposed to Great Britain. If the noble Lord opposite can give me some information on those subjects I shall be extremely grateful, and I repeat that in all I have said I have not intended to convey anything in the nature of criticism of the Government at home.
§ VISCOUNT FITZALAN OF DERWENT
My Lords, before the noble Lord replies I should like to be allowed to say a few words on this very important matter. My noble friend who has just sat down naturally looks on this question from a somewhat different angle from mine, but at the same time I feel bound to say that I think he has brought forward his points with considerable moderation, and, if I may be allowed to say so, with more moderation than I should have expected from him, because I know him so well. He and I have worked together for many years in the closest possible friendship, and I know perfectly well what his extreme religious views and feelings 'are and bow very wide apart they are from mine. We have never yet quarrelled, even over the Pope, and I do not think we shall do so now. I think the real reason is that we mutually agree that the religious Views of each of us show invincible ignorance on the part of the other.
138 The announcement made by the Prime Minister yesterday has, I think, cleared the air considerably and changed the situation, and I do not think it will be necessary for me to say quite as much as I might have felt obliged to say had that announcement not been made. At the same time I feel that I ought to say a few words on this complicated case. It is one of those peculiar cases which turn up now and then when everybody concerned appears to be both right at one time and wrong at another. I think this is particularly the case with reference to the noble Lord, Lord Strickland, whom I am glad to see in his place, because I am afraid I shall find it necessary to criticise his conduct in some ways, and I regret having to do so because I am indebted to him for many acts of kindness and courtesy.
I have no doubt whatever that the noble Lord has been perfectly sincere and genuine in the policy he has been carrying out in Malta, according to his own ideas for the good, as he has felt it, of the Empire and the condition of that Island as a whole, but we all know, that is to say, everybody who has any knowledge whatever of the noble Lord's public career, that his Lordship has not been famed either for judgment or tact in dealing with other people. It has often been said of him that if on occasion he has done the right thing he has been certain to do it in the wrong way, and whatever there may be against others to be said in this unhappy tangle, there can be no doubt, I think, that the whole origin of it is due to the noble Lord.
My noble friend below me seemed to think that the origin of this trouble began only two years ago, with reference to the case of a particular friar, whom I have always understood did not behave as he should have behaved, and became unfortunately a political partisan, so I have been told, and he was ordered away from his monastery. It is quite true that as a British subject he was entitled to appeal, and I imagine it was the duty of the head of the Government to see to it that he did not leave the Island against his will. So far as I know he has not left the Island. No force was applied or intended to be applied to him, but he is no longer a member of the Order to which he belonged. But the original blunder made by the noble 139 Lord, Lord Strickland, to which I do not think my noble friend alluded, was, I maintain, in his advocating the insertion of the clerical element into the Constitution of Malta. A more fatuous and absurd action to take in an Island like that I cannot conceive. Certainly it has acted as a boomerang on the noble Lord, and he has been hoisted by his own petard in so doing.
The noble Lord will forgive me for criticising him a little further. I feel bound to say that he is handicapped by being bereft of all sense of proportion, and he has no compensation for that defect by having the slightest vestige of any sense of humour, and I maintain that those are two disqualifications, two failings, which are seriously unfortunate for any one holding the position of Prime Minister. I cannot blame the noble Lord for that. We all have our failings, and those amongst others happen to be his. It is not his fault, and I do not think sufficient consideration has been given to those deficiencies by the ecclesiastical authorities in Malta. I have no hesitation in saying that I regret the drastic action of the ecclesiastical authorities in that Island with regard to the noble Lord. When I say that I bear in mind the extraordinarily difficult position they were in. Those two Bishops were responsible in conscience for the spiritual well-being of the people committed to their care. They could not help realising that gradually a wedge was being driven in between the clergy and the people—that a constant sapping was going on of respect for the clergy, and this due to one man and to one man holding the highest Party political position in the Island, with the advantages of wealth and of the control of the Press—an ultra-partisan control, at any rate of the great majority of the Press of the Island, and by no means too scrupulously conducted.
Still, I repeat that I regret the drastic action, which I think shows a want of appreciation of the situation. It may be very impertinent for me to say that, but I say it because I feel it, and because I mean it. I do not mean to say for a moment that such interference with politics would not be justified under other conditions. Most certainly it would. Take, for example, a country where the Government of the day should as a Gov- 140 ernment bring in legislation dealing with some grave moral question, for example, a question like birth control. It would certainly be the duty of the Bishops of my Church in that event to intervene in so far as they could, and to warn their flocks that neither directly nor indirectly could they as a Government support the taking of such action without grave sin. And I imagine it would be the duty and the action of Bishops of all other denominations as well.
As I have had to be critical of the noble Lord I want to say one word in his defence. He has been accused of being a freemason. Noble Lords who are freemasons will, I ant sure, acquit me of intending anything offensive when I say that. We all know that freemasonry in this country appears to be non-political, and its activities to be chiefly philanthropical. All the same, members of my religious persuasion are not allowed to become freemasons, because membership entails taking a secret oath. But on the Continent freemasonry, as we all know, is very different, and to charge a man with being a freemason is a very gross insult; and I venture to say with absolute conviction that to make that charge against the noble Lord, Lord Strickland, is a vile and malicious libel, and I am pained indeed to think that it should have been believed at all by Catholics, as I am told it has been in the Island of Malta.
I want to say one word with reference to the proposed Notes for a Concordat alluded to by my noble friend below me (Lord Cushendun). He spoke as though the Notes that were drawn up had been approved in toto by Archbishop Robinson. He has omitted to notice that in the letter he mentions from the Governor to the Home Government, written, I think, in May of last year, the Governor definitely stated that the Archbishop told him that he could not commit the Vatican to the acceptance of those Notes as a whole. No doubt some of them were excellent, no doubt some of them did form the basis of friendly discussion, as the Archbishop said; but I do not think any intelligent Catholic would assert for a moment that all of them were possibly capable of being accepted.
Then my noble friend below me seemed to be very anxious as to the possibility of Italian influence in Malta. I do not mind telling him I have been anxious 141 about it too. I am not in a position, of course, to make any statement of any value, as the noble Lord opposite will, I hope, do. But I have endeavoured to make inquiries, and I have been told by absolutely unprejudiced and non-Catholic Englishmen, with an intimate acquaintance with Malta, that the danger is absolutely infinitesimal, that the Italian proclivities are more cultural than political. As one of my friends told me, "You need have no fear, because no Maltese has any desire to become conscripted into the Italian Army." But I am afraid that the question has been used as a party weapon in the local political strife, and it has been greatly exaggerated, and a great deal of harm has arisen therefrom.
It has even been suggested, I believe, in some quarters that Archbishop Caruana and the Bishop of Gozo are themselves suspect as regards their English loyalty. That is as great a libel as that which I have referred to against the noble Lord, Lord Strickland, of being a freemason. I have the pleasure of being acquainted with the Archbishop, who, by the way, is English in everything except in name—or, perhaps, I ought to say Scottish. I had the pleasure of making his acquaintance last year. I am sorry to say he was in very indifferent health, which I should not think has been improved by the anxiety of the last few months. But we certainly need have no anxiety whatever about his English principles and sympathies. I do not know personally the Bishop of Gozo, but I know from others that he is perfectly to be trusted in the same way. He was educated at an English college in Rome, which for some time was under the immediate protection of that John Bull of an English Cardinal, the late Cardinal Gasquet; and I need hardly assure your Lordships there would be no fear of any anti-English feelings or sympathies coming from that quarter.
Had it not been for the announcement made yesterday I should have made comments on the Blue-book. I will only say I think it is an unhappy document. I do not think anybody comes out of it with credit, and when I say that I do not exclude the Vatican. I think many of the things mentioned by my noble friend below me had some substance in them. I cannot help feeling that it was 142 in many ways carelessly drawn up. I did not like the English side of the Bluebook. I am not for a moment reflecting upon the diplomatic agents, who had to carry out their Instructions, but I do think there were points in it which depart very much from the old traditions of English Governments carrying on diplomatic correspondence with other Powers, and I regret it. But a new situation has arisen since the announcement made yesterday and, if I may say so with all possible respect, I congratulate the Government on the action they have decided upon taking, consider their position was an extremely difficult one. I suppose I am looked upon as being somewhat extreme. If that is so, I suppose I ought to resent their retaining the noble Lord and his Ministry in Malta as advisers to the Governor whenever the Governor chooses to seek their advice. I do not resent that at all. On the contrary, I also congratulate the Government on having come to that decision. I think it is a compromise which may mean a possible alleviation of the present situation. Speaking for myself, I hope that the Government and the Vatican diplomatic authorities will see it in the same light.
Before I resume my seat I should like, if the noble Lord, Lord Strickland, will allow me, to make an appeal to him. I think a great deal of hope in the future rests entirely upon him and his possible action. In a document which he issued to your Lordships he has in two or three places expressed an apology for things that he has either done or said himself or that have been said or done in his name in the Press which he controls. On two or three occasions in that document, if I remember rightly, he uses the expression, "I am prepared to express my regret." "Prepared to express my regret" seems to carry with it a certain limitation, and I should like the noble Lord to go a little further and say a little more. I would suggest to him the possibility of his consulting with two or three friends of his who wish him well and who, I am sure, would be glad to help him if he would accept their help, in coming to some resolution or some kind of gesture that might relieve the present situation and place, him in a position which I believe and think he ought to hold in that island. If he would only do that, if he would only advance some little way I 143 think that much good might come of it. I believe and I hope that the material peace and the spiritual welfare would be restored to that great historic Island fortress.
§ LORD STRICKLAND
My Lords, I rise to speak under considerable restraint because I realise that the position I am in constitutionally to-day is different from that which I held yesterday morning. But I wish loyally to admit that it is in the interests of the Empire that additional powers are given temporarily to the Governor even if there has been at the same time an inevitable diminutio capitis of the authority of Maltese Ministers in this case. I gratefully appreciate expressions of approval and support heard on all sides in this House and in another place, and the opinion that I should continue to receive support and suffer no detriment on account of the action of any outside authority, and notwithstanding my objection to any "suspension" of the Constitution, I feel it a duty to express my thanks to His Majesty's Government for the support received in the correspondence published in the Blue-book and for the solution that has been arrived at.
I shall be misunderstood if I do not at once say why. Answering a legal point raised by my noble friend Lord Cushendun, I hold that under the Constitution of Malta, which was drafted with clauses devised to meet such difficult situations, it would have been possible to carry on without any alteration thereof involving a diminutio capitis of the status of Ministers. I use the Roman law term as the most indicative and accurate expression. But there are doubts as to how far and in what way legislation may be enacted by Ordinance for carrying on the Constitution in times of stress, when the stress is less than that of war or the immediate imminence of war but nevertheless abnormal, and there are legal and administrative doubts as to the power of the Governor to carry on ordinary legislation by Ordinance. The Governor can undoubtedly now carry on the administration, and legislate by Ordinance in all cases in which the general interests of the Empire are concerned in preserving the efficiency of the Fortress and where the trading or other interests of British subjects not resident or domiciled in Malta are affected. But 144 its is obvious that to get out of an abnormal situation properly arisen by the enactment of Ordinance No. 1, more power may be necessary and it should be legally and properly enacted by Order in Council as provided for reserved clauses in the Letters Patent. With the support of His Majesty's Government, the Governor has issued an Ordinance suspending the elections. That does not mean the "suspension" of the Constitution. The word suspension is unnecessary and regrettable; we have a suspension of the elections in virtue of constitutional powers.
Having got to that stage of the elections being suspended, which is not normal under self-government, now the problem is to get out of it, and the way to get out must be by further Ordinances. Therefore, it is in the interests of the Empire that in getting out of this situation the subsequent Ordinances should be unassailable. Any apparent or real diminution of the previous authority of a constitutional Prime Minister of Malta must therefore be accepted loyally. And as one who is still Prime Minister but must act as an adviser of the Governor who has power to give administrative instructions because he now has power to legislate, power to set aside the views of his Executive Council, power to set aside the advice of the Privy Council—where the nominated Council and the Executive Council sit together—and power to set aside the advice of Joint Committees of the Executive Council and the Nominated Council in advising as to administrative matters and points of legislation, I therefore accept constitutionally the position of an adviser because, although I was supported by a majority at the time of the Dissolution, and could then give to the Governor an assurance if necessary of passing a Bill of Indemnity for following any advice which Ministers might give now after a Dissolution, a constitutional Prime Minister can no longer pretend to such authority for an indefinite period. I am leaving unsaid many things which I would wish to say if I were not now bound by the traditions of office and the respect due to my noble friend who has now charge of the Seals of the Colonial Department.
There is a Question before your Lordships' House on a. Motion asking for more 145 Papers and for the consideration of possible solutions of the present difficulty; and on this I earnestly hope that your Lordships will support the demand for more Papers, because it so happens that both in the British Blue-book and the Vatican reply thereto, published by the Vatican Press, the main and most important question of the "Privilegium Fori", which is the root of the present difficulty, appears to be kept back. My noble friend who has just sat down referred to the case of Father Micallef, and your Lordships' House would certainly like to know what is the present position to which that incident has developed. The foreign superior, who was brought in to re-organise a Maltese monastery and ordered Father Micallef to leave Malta, is a certain Father Carta, and he was subsequently brought before a Court of Law. After the ecclesiastical authority had been informed that legal proceedings were contemplated, after they had been given an opportunity to say anything they had to say before the case was proceeded with, and after the Acting-Bishop, Monsignor Galea, had said that he had no objection to the legal proceedings, on a telegram coming from Rome which ordered the withdrawal of the so-called permission to summons against an ecclesiastic, the Government of Malta was expected to quash the proceedings.
The Government of Malta, the Ministers of the Crown appointed in the name of the King, would have been very wanting in their duty if they had admitted that there was any class of His Majesty s subjects in Malta to-day exempt from the process of law, except the Bishops of Malta and Gozo, who alone are exempted especially by Statute. Ministers declined to accept the view that they have to ask permission to proceed in Court against any Maltese or any foreigner such as Father Carta. Father Carta was summoned for making use, to the detriment of the Revenue and to the advantage of the Italian Post Office, of a clandestine post office run by an Italian Vice-Consul. Ever since the demand for withdrawal of the summons has been most insistent. Public and private requests, and even threats of excommunication and other forms of pressure have time after time been brought to bear on me to quash that prosecution. I have declined to do so 146 as a matter of duty as Minister for Justice and the case now stands adjourned "sine die" by the Magistrate.
Now, may I lay before your Lordships' House this consideration? Can any Catholic aspire to continue to be trusted as a Minister of the Crown if he has to admit that permission is to be asked of the Bishop by a Minister for Justice before initiating a prosecution, or if also as a Minister of the Crown he receives orders from an outside authority to quash a prosecution, or if he submits to a threat that every ecclesiastic in Malta would be mobilised as an unpaid canvasser against him, and his Party and his supporters, at the next election? I have felt that it was my duty, under my oath of office and of allegiance to the King, to hold that in this case no matter of "faith or morals" is concerned; it is a matter of administration regarding the collection of money through postage stamps or letters despatched from Malta.
My noble friend who has just sat down held the view that there was great want of tact in dealing with Father Micallef and Father Carta from the commencement of that complication. I beg leave to put before your Lordships a recital of facts which is more complete and correct than the version which was rapidly put afloat against the Government as to the initial action of the Government. When the point arose whether a "boarding permit" should be given to this Father Micallef who was against his will ordered out of the Island and who preferred expulsion from the Franciscan Order, Ministers did not take direct action, but instead Ministers appealed to the Governor to go himself personally to the Archbishop, who was then in a nursing home, and for His Excellency to appeal himself to the Archbishop to confer immediately with the ecclesiastical superior of Father Micallef, and get that superior to postpone any action until, by telegram, diplomatic appeals could be made by Sir John Du Cane to Mr. Chilton so as to put the case before the Vatican; and that procedure was followed. Now, may I ask my noble friend, may I ask this House, could any procedure have been more tactful, more circumspect, more respectful to the Vatican than for Ministers to have postponed action until diplomatic methods were put in motion by telegram? The boarding permit was never asked for. The boarding permit 147 was never refused. Nevertheless on an assumed refusal all these points and accusations bereft of their foundation have been made against me.
When Governor Ponsonby—a member of whose family is now one of His Majesty's Ministers in this House—was Governor of Malta a century ago this question of the exemption of ecclesiastics from process of law before Civil Courts was a matter of negotiation between the Government of Malta and the Vatican, and Governor Ponsonby issued an Ordinance, after fully consulting the Vatican and the home Government, to terminate a claim to those mediaeval privileges for the future. But that which is the law, enacted a century ago in the name of His Majesty the King, is not acquiesced in by the Bishops to-day, and efforts are being made to return to the old position, and to arrange for the support of a political Party to revive mediæval privileges and mediæval conditions by ignoring the law of the King. Maltese Ministers, in view of their oath of office and of allegiance to the King, feel that they are precluded from acquiescing to such pressure.
There is other correspondence covered by the Motion before the House which I hope your Lordships will desire to be printed. I think it is a recognised principle that any one who holds office under the Crown, if accused, should be equally heard in his defence. There are some dozen or more pages of indictment against a Minister of the Crown in Malta printed in the British Command Paper. Replies, careful replies, moderate replies, unaggressive replies, have been printed in parallel columns in reply to those accusations. I hope this House will decide that the same publicity shall be given to those replies, and that the same authoritative publicity, that is inclusion in a Blue-book, shall be given to the defence. The noble Lord who has just sat down referred to Mgr. Robinson's report, and the noble Lord who was the first to speak in this debate also referred to the proceedings in connection with the Mission to Malta of Mgr. Robinson as Delegate Apostolic. I think it is due to myself to make some reference to the suggestion (apparently the main argument of the Bishops which the noble Lord who has just sat down is able to adopt against me) of tactlessness in dealing with these matters. There is a point where too 148 much tact becomes comparable to running away. There is a mean between weakness and firmness. I have been four times a Governor overseas in the service of the Crown. I may have been tactless sometimes, but I have not run away always. Had I been habitually tactless, as now pressed in argument, I should not have been a Governor a second time.
There was precedent for the manner in which the Mission of Mgr. Robinson was to be dealt with and there was guidance from the lessons of history as to how that Mission was likely to develop. More than forty years ago at the instance of English Catholics, led by the late Duke of Norfolk, in the days of the development of the Land League agitation in Ireland, many Catholics in England and Ireland felt that discount was being taken off the Commandments in regard to what was preached or was not preached in Irish churches, and a request was submitted to Rome that an Apostolic Delegate should be sent to Ireland; Mgr. Persico was accordingly appointed. His report was pigeon-holed. Although it never saw the light it is known that the report was favourable to the view held by English Catholics. His Holiness Leo XIII described Mgr. Persico as persona grata to the English Government and suggested that he should become Archbishop of Malta and receive a Cardinal's hat. That suggestion was set aside at the instance of the Maltese Government, because Mgr. Persico was a foreigner. When on that precedent the Holy See was asked to appoint an Apostolic Delegate there was no expectation that his report would ever be published, but there was a hope that the Delegate would ascertain the whole truth, and also a feeling that, whether his report would be approved or not approved, the Vatican in any case would learn the truth and the whole truth.
Before Mgr. Robinson arrived in Malta, Maltese Ministers, to guard against the misrepresentations that were certain to be put before him by politicians and certain ecclesiastics, took steps to offer to the Apostolic Delegate all the authority of a Royal Commissioner, to pass a law to give him authority to take evidence on oath, and thereby to save him, and those he represented, from the dangers of giving weight 149 to hearsay and political abuse. That was a gesture of respect and an acknowledgment of Mgr. Robinson's authority. But the White Paper published by the Vatican Press, instead of appreciating that gesture of respect and offer of authority has turned the proposed legislation into a matter to be reprobated in strong language. When Mgr. Robinson arrived in Malta he declined in any way to discuss the Father Micallef case which was the basis of the resolution upon which the appointment of a Delegate had been invited. It was then decided that Mgr. Robinson should meet all Ministers together at a series of round-table conferences, face to face, to offer him the truth without restraint and to speak out as Catholics loyal to our religion. We also had shorthand writers present and their record is available. After long and repeated discussion Mgr. Robinson said: "I have heard enough of recriminations and complaints from all sides. Let us get to business. Why not formulate a concordat?" He added that His Holiness the present Pope desired to make it a feature of his Pontificate that concordats should be negotiated with as many nations as possible. His suggestion was immediately agreed to. A draft was prepared and was put before His Grace. He eliminated many paragraphs. The Notes were redrafted and redrafted until there was not a single paragraph or one word therein to which the Apostolic Delegate could take the slightest exception.
There is no doubt that the substance of the main report made by Mgr. Robinson to His Holiness was entirely in accord with what Sir John Du Cane reported to the Secretary of State for the Colonies—the recommendation of the consideration of the suggestions for a concordat formulated by the Delegate and by Ministers in Malta. It is incredible that what now appears in the Vatican publication as his one and only report should have been all he had to say on his Mission to Malta. What is now published may have been an enclosure to some other report or some postscript. We know that negotiations for a concordat were, according to the Blue-Book, commenced in Rome. But the recent Vatican White Paper conveys the impression that the only report of Mgr. Robinson's Mission was a series of recriminations and per- 150 sonal criticisms all collected from the opposition Press and mostly irrelevant to the object of the Mission. It does not do justice to Mgr. Robinson if it is his only report nor would it be reconcileable with his ability.
I am grateful to my noble friend who has just sat down for protesting, in my favour, against the accusations that were made against me—that as a practising Catholic I had surreptitiously belonged to a secret society banned to all Catholics—on the eve of the last election. The night before Vile Sunday of the election thousands and thousands of leaflets were printed with a perjured affidavit condemning me as a freemason, and were put on the seats in churches or distributed at their doors in Malta, to make the electors believe that I was a freemason. That perjured affidavit was concocted in the office of the then Prime Minister and of the Minister of Justice, now one of two leaders of the Nationalist Party, in the presence and with the knowledge of Mgr. Dandria, then a Minister, and no reparation has been offered for a calumny that cost the Constitutional Party many seats. It was spread through the churches and many seats were lost because there was not time to contradict it. Subsequently, those who perpetrated that perjury were brought before the Court of Law, and I succeeded in proving by irrefutable evidence that throughout my life I had never been a freemason or a member of a society condemned by the Catholic Church. It was proved to the satisfaction of a Court of Law that I never have been a freemason, and the perjurer was sent to prison.
I regret deeply that my noble friend, while condemning that libel, has described it as equally libellous to connect the pastoral of the Bishops of Malta and Gozo, which directed under pain of sin how electors should vote, with a political Party that is opposed to the English connection. On reflection, it emerges that not only did the pastorals of those Bishops declare it to be a mortal sin to vote for the Constitutional Party, but the sinfulness also applied to the Labour Party, which was included under the ban, and so was anybody who supported the candidates of either Party. This made it inevitable that the only Party that could be elected or voted for 151 without sin was that of those who are called Nationalists. The programme of the Nationalists, issued for this election, is signed as co-leader by a man who was condemned in War time and court-martialled for plotting to transfer Malta to Italy and who has repeatedly declared that he will not give up his preference for the Italian flag. I ask your Lordships whether it is not legitimate to disapprove of the action of the Bishops which makes the election of that man and his Party the objective aimed at by their pastoral and the only possible result in Malta. The suggestion that there has been any calumny or misrepresentation on the part of the Constitutional Party therefore fails, and I leave it to your Lordships to judge whether the action of those Bishops is open to the defence suggested by my noble friend.
An appeal was finally made to me to add to the apologies I have already tendered. I am praised for having expressed regret for things that I have said in debate or that have appeared in the Press. I am only too glad to express regret for anything that is regrettable, but I cannot express regret for holding that, in matters where religion and faith are not concerned, there is to be no outside pressure upon the King's Ministers, either in Malta, or in Quebec or in New South Wales, or in England or in Ireland. There are many in this House among the Catholic Peers whose ancestors, after having held office under the Crown for many generations, were cut out from political life in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. A Strickland who represented Westmorland was, according to Hallam, expelled from Parliament for refusing to vote that the Queen was the Head of the Church. Another had to leave the House of Commons because he could not vote for the Test Acts. It has been the aspiration and training from childhood of many devoted and practising Catholics like myself to get back into active politics under conditions that enable us to be trusted by the Crown and by our fellow Englishmen. I have no other incentive in the action that I have taken in the matters before this House; but I would have betrayed the electors of Malta and my duty to the Crown if I had accepted any solution of this question that depended on apologies from myself or upon withdrawals of in- 152 defensible pastorals by Bishops. The solution of this question must come from His Majesty's Government and from the Vatican. It must come from the protection of the freedom of election in Malta against every outside authority through efficient laws enacted in the name of the King. Such laws exist in England and in Ireland. They have been administered by Courts of Law in Ireland, and there is nothing to prevent their being similarly enacted in Malta and administered by Courts of Law there so constituted as to command the confidence of all Parties.
It has been suggested that I should be eliminated. This elimination has been preached in the churches for religious reasons and even for imperial reasons, and it has been preached since I was shot at; and there have been subsequent conspiracies to assassinate brought to light. My elimination might take place by resignation, by assassination or by decrepitude; but I shall not resign so long as I have a duty that I can fulfil to the Crown and to the people of Malta. Nevertheless, as the suggestion of someone's elimination has come from the Bishops, it is legitimate also to consider precedents for the elimination of Bishops. It has been proposed that "two Bishops might be exchanged for a knight." We have the precedent of the elimination of a Bishop in Malta, where a Bishop had been put in authority at the instance of Cardinal Lavigerie, who worked for French interests then opposed to those of England. The unacceptable acting appointment was pushed for political reasons in order to establish French influence in Malta and Tunis. The appointment was finally set aside by the Vatican. On that precedent it is quite as possible to consider an alternative solution to that of the "elimination" of a Prime Minister.
I have only one more point to make. I have to defend my colleagues and the Maltese Ministry as well as myself in reference to the suggestion that we have over-stated the case in our defence in an official Memorandum, signed by all the Ministers of the Crown in Malta. I wish to say that I am prepared to defend to the full every word and every suggestion contained in that official Memorandum, but this is not the place to do so unless effective defence is possible as to con- 153 spiracies. The place to do so would be before a Committee empowered to take evidence on oath and to keep it secret.
THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (LORD PASEFIELD)
My Lords, I am sure the House will excuse my going through all the various stages of this somewhat complicated and difficult dispute. I shall endeavour to answer the questions put by the noble Lord, but we are in the main concerned here with the last stage of the dispute. The business of the Colonial Office and of the Secretary of State, Where you have an elective Legislature and a responsible Ministry, is to maintain strict impartiality as regards the Party issues of a particular Colony. We are not able at the Colonial Office to regard one of the various political Parties as pro-English and the others as enemy or treacherous, or anything of that sort, unless the matter is proved, and consequently the Colonial Office has not taken, sides, and has done its very utmost to avoid taking sides, in the local issues of Malta.
The conduct and policy of the Ministry of Malta and of the head of that Ministry, Lord Strickland, are a matter for the electors of Malta, and whether he and his colleagues have been right or not is a matter upon which the Colonial Office and successive Secretaries of State—for it began before my time—have been very careful to express no opinion. But in the final stage of that quarrel you have the very serious attacks made by the Bishops of Malta and Gaza, and we must say by the Vatican, on freedom of election. They have laid it down that it is a matter of mortal sin for any Catholic to be a candidate in the Party to which Lord Strickland belongs, or to vote for any member of that Party, and even any member of the Labour Party, in Malta. That is a form of interference with elections which no British Government could possibly allow. Very much less than that is sufficient to invalidate an election in this country, and there have been elections invalidated—I remember one myself—merely on the interference of two or three rash and inconsiderate priests, who had declared that it was a matter of mortal sin to vote for the other side. I offer no opinion as to haw far that might be justified in Roman Catholic theology, but it is inter- 154 ference with an election which, if it is felt to be at all serious, on an election petition will invalidate the election.
It is not possible in Malta to test the matter in that way, because the law of Malta, while regarding it as an offence and punishing it by fine, does not make it a case for invalidating the election. Consequently, when this declaration was made in a country like Malta, 'where almost every elector is a devout Roman Catholic, it was sufficient to make any free election impossible and on the advice of practically all persons concerned His Majesty's Government felt that the only thing to do was to suspend indefinitely the election, until they could command anything like a free declaration of opinion on the part of the Maltese electors. That has involved what is called suspending the Constitution.
The noble Lord who introduced this discussion asked on what authority the Constitution can be suspended. We are advised, I think without any doubt, that under the instruments creating the Constitution of Malta it is possible for His Majesty, by Order in Council—possible and legal—to take that action, and that action is being taken. I needly hardly say that it is with great regret that His Majesty's Government—I think I might say any Government—is driven to take the step of suspending even temporarily a Constitution, for any reason whatsoever, but we are suspending the Constitution of Malta, if I may parody something which has been said before, in order to save the Constitution. It is not really maintaining the Constitution if freedom of election is taken away, and it is in order that we may get back freedom of election that we are obliged to suspend the Constitution for the time being, and enable the Governor, by the necessary Orders, to carry on the administration of the Colony as if it were a Crown Colony. That is what is being done. I cannot say how long it may be necessary to suspend the holding of the elections, but as soon as we can get matters on any decent footing—and to do that is, of course, our first desire—so that the electors may freely choose, then the old Constitution will come back.
Lord Cushendun asked whether it was true that there was a conspiracy against British rule in Malta. It has been known, 155 even in elections in this country, for one Party to claim to be the really patriotic, true-blue Union Jack Party, and so on, and to accuse other Parties of being really wanting in this respect. Such accusations have been made in Malta, but I would like to say that so far as I know, and so far as my Department knows, and the same is true of my right hon. friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, we are not aware, and have no information whatever, that there is anything like a conspiracy against British Rule in Malta, or that the Maltese people are other than loyal to the King. They may have differences as to one Party or another, but His Majesty's Government are unaware of anything which can be called a conspiracy against British Rule, nor have we any reason to suppose that Party differences in Malta really imply any such difference in loyalty.
It is perfectly true that there is what is called a pro-Italian party in Malta, but my knowledge of Malta, which extends not quite as far back as that of Lord Strickland but considerably far back, is that there has always been a Party which wanted to bring forward the Italian language. As Lord FitzAlan has said, it is a cultural party, which wanted to bring forward the Italian language. In that sense there is a pro-Italian Party, but His Majesty's Government have no sort of information which would lead them to believe that there is in Malta a Party in favour of the union of Malta to Italy.
I am asked whether His Majesty's Government are still endeavouring to renew negotiations for a concordat. We are not. His Majesty's Government are at present making no endeavour to pursue the negotiations for a concordat. The position is one of deadlock. Each side has stipulated a condition precedent to the resumption of negotiations which the other is unable to accept. The Vatican have intimated that no negotiations are possible so long as Lord Strickland remains in office. I need hardly dwell in your Lordships' House upon the extremely objectionable character of a stipulation of that character, irrespective of the person who may happen to hold the office. It would be intolerable that any foreign potentate, even the Vatican, should say that it cannot endure the presence in His Majesty's 156 Government of any person whatsoever, and His Majesty's Government on their side have informed the Vatican that the resumption of negotiations must be conditional upon orders being given by the Holy See to the episcopal authorities in Malta and Gozo which will restore to the electorate of the Colony complete freedom to exercise their political judgment. That is what we have stipulated for. No Government could stipulate for less, and that is the position which is set forth in the recent Command Paper.
It is not possible at present for His Majesty's Government to add anything of substance to the information given in that document. Your Lordships may have noticed that the Prime Minister, in reply to a supplementary question in the House of Commons, stated on June 18 that His Majesty's Government "is perfectly prepared, so far as relations with the Vatican are concerned, to leave the matter where it is." But I should like to say that, of course, the Government view with extreme anxiety and extreme regret the continuance of the tension which has been described, and if there is anything that could be done, shall I say to bring the parties together or to induce each side to try at any rate to think a little better of the other, and to get on better terms, of course it is the desire of His Majesty's Government that the present extraordinary situation should be brought to an end as quickly as possible. We must judge what steps we as a Government can take to that end. At present I am hound to say it seems to us that we must wait and let somebody take the lead.
The noble Lord, Lord Cushendun, asked whether the ecclesiastical authorities have yet given those orders. They have not. There is no sign of any withdrawal from the position which was taken up, and the noble Viscount, Lord FitzAlan, who speaks of course with great authority on such a matter, did imply that it was quite within the capacity and the normal action of the Holy See to take action of that kind when it thought that the circumstances were sufficiently serious to demand it. I can only say that that is a very serious doctrine, and it is obvious that such an interference with the right of election might be used in all sorts of parts of the British Empire on all sorts of questions. I think the Vatican is discreet and wise enough not to misuse 157 its authority in that sort of that way. But it is not a doctrine which His Majesty's Government can admit at all. Unfortunately at present we do not see any sign that the ecclesiastical authorities have altered their position. Consequently, it is not possible to give any indication of how long the interregnum which is now being initiated must last. Except for the fact that the Maltese people are not able to express their opinion upon the Government, and are not able, therefore, to take up the duties of citizenship which have been conferred upon them, there is no practical difficulty in the present situation continuing indefinitely. The Government will go on, and with that important exception, that it will not have the democratic basis which some of us think desirable and necessary, it can go on quite satisfactorily.
With regard to the publication of further Papers, I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Cushendun, to give a little consideration in that matter. His Majesty's Government have published all the Papers up to last week or the week before. There is practically nothing more to publish at present. There will be something presently, and we are very anxious not to do anything which would stand in the way of a possible accommodation being reached. It is quite natural that one side and the other should wish documents to be published, but the danger is that every additional document in the present temper makes it more difficult to arrive at an amicable and peaceful solution. The Foreign Secretary in the House of Commons informed a questioner that he was not prepared to add anything at present to the published documents. I am not therefore able in any sense to agree to give papers at this moment, but I can assure the noble Lord that His Majesty's Government will be prepared at some future time to give the Papers up to date. We do not want to be publishing a Malta Blue-book every week, and it would be undesirable, we feel, at the present moment to put any more Papers into the controversy. But in due time further Papers may, no doubt, be published.
Meanwhile, of course, the legal instruments, the Order in Council and so on, which are being made will be published in the ordinary way, and those will give 158 the information as to what the position is. I may say that what is suspended is the elections, and consequently the elected Legislature. All the other parts of the Government of Malta remain in existence, the Executive Council, corresponding to the Cabinet, and the elected Ministers, and what is called the Privy Council in Malta; but the Governor is expressly relieved of the necessity of taking the advice of his Ministers or of consulting them, and is given freedom to consult anybody else he likes, or nobody, and to act, as the Governor of a Crown Colony does, upon his own judgment, upon such advice as he may choose. In that way we have retained the noble Lord, Lord Strickland, and his colleagues in office, we have saved their position. We have not allowed them to be eliminated, and yet we are able to go on without the elections which it has been made impossible for the Government to hold. I think in that way we have found a solution which combines the practical necessity of carrying on the Government with the regrettable position of not being able to have elections; and yet we are not in any sense giving way to the demand of the Vatican that Lord Strickland and his colleagues should be removed, and we have no intention of doing so.
§ LORD DANESFORT
My Lords, there are one or two questions I want to ask. I think I am right in saying that the noble Lord did not refer to the fact that during this suspension of the Constitution, the Governor will have the advantage of the advice of the Maltese Ministers. That is, I believe, the case, but I do not think the noble Lord mentioned that in his speech.
§ LORD PASSFIELD
I endeavoured to make it clear that the Ministers would remain as they are, that the Governor would be able to take their advice whenever he chose, but would not be obliged to seek their advice, or to act upon it if he took it, and that he would also be able to take the advice of anybody else, or of nobody.
§ LORD DANESFORT
I am much obliged. The other point is the question of further Papers. As your Lordships know, there is published in the Blue-book a series of very serious and what appear to some of us to be very malignant accusations against Lord 159 Strickland by some of the ecclesiastical authorities. There is no answer published in the Blue-book to those charges, but I understand that Lord Strickland has issued certain answers, and I would suggest to the noble Lord that it would be only right and fair, as the charges have been made public in that way, that the answers should be equally made public by adding some further Papers, with the answer of Lord Strickland.
§ LORD PASSFIELD
The noble Lord asked whether, when further Papers were published, Lord Strickland's defence would be added to those Papers. I will certainly take care that that is remembered when the time comes, and I will make representations. It is not in my hands to publish the Papers, but I will take care that that is put before the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. That is all I can do.
§ LORD CUSHENDUN
I should like to press the noble Lord a little bit further than that. In view of what he has said I do not wish to press my Motion for more Papers. But I think he might promise to publish this particular document, Lord Strickland's defence, without waiting, as he says, for the time when that is to be remembered. If he would be kind enough to say that he would publish that Paper now as a White Paper then I Shall be quite glad to withdraw my Motion for Papers. Otherwise I shall feel inclined to press it, though reluctantly. With regard to the rest of the noble Lord's reply, I should like to be allowed to express my satisfaction. I think on the whole it was very satisfactory. I am very glad that he has been able to tell us that so far as the Colonial Office are concerned they know nothing of any anti-British conspiracy in Malta. As regards the pro-Italian Party, I have known for some time, of course, of what my noble friend behind me called the cultural Party, but I was not sure that it did not go beyond that. I am very glad to have the assurance of the noble Lord, speaking for His Majesty's Government, that although there is still and always will be a Party which is fond of the Italian language—there is no reason why they should not 160 be—and Italian culture and so on, there is nothing that can be called an anti-British Italian political Party. That is very satisfactory.
There is one other matter that I should like to say a word upon. I am not quite certain that I understand what is meant by the suspension of the Constitution as distinguished from the suspension of the elections. The noble Lord says that the Governor may take the advice of the constitutional Ministers or he may not, or he may take anybody else's advice. Anybody can do that. You do not require to be a Governor and you do not require to have any constitutional position to enable you to take the advice of anybody you choose and to refuse to follow it if you do not like it. I am not certain that I think that is m a very satisfactory solution. I should prefer to be told that the elections have been suspended. That I can quite understand in the circumstances. But why should the whole Constitution have been suspended? Why should it not have been carried on as it was, if I may use the analogy, for a time lately in Egypt where the elections were suspended but not the whole Constitution? I should have thought that the administration of Malta might have been carried on constitutionally without reverting to anything quite so drastic as Crown Colony government under an autocratic Government. I should have preferred it had the noble Lord been able to tell me that. However, that does not go very far, perhaps. I understand that my noble friend Lord Strickland did not express any dissatisfaction with that. He accepted, I think, the solution which has been arrived at by His Majesty's Government. In those circumstances, if the noble Lord will make the promise which I just now suggested, I shall ask leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.
§ LORD STRICKLAND
My Lords, I ask the indulgence of the House to press for the publication of the correspondence of the "Privilegium Fori," which interests the whole Empire. It shows the real reason why His Majesty's Ministers in Malta have been subjected to these difficulties, and it shows a direct defiance to the Ordinance of Governor Ponsonby. For myself, I loyally accept the decision of His Majesty's Government and I do not express any opinion on the constitutional point.
§ LORD WRAXALL
My Lords, may I acid one word to this debate I am not going to speak about Malta, a country which I only visited once in my life and that some twenty-two years ago. But freemasonry has been referred to in this debate. My noble friend beside me naturally cannot know very much about freemasonry in this country. Lie said he believed that it was non-political and philanthropic. As a freemason holding a somewhat important position, I should like to be allowed to say that freemasonry in this country is fundamentally and absolutely non-political and entirely philanthropic. It is true, and I am quite aware of it, that on the Continent it is not entirely so. But efforts have been made on the Continent to free freemasonry from political interests, and the one thing that the freemasons in this country hope is that those efforts may be successful.
§ LORD PASSFIELD
My Lords, with the leave of your Lordships, I will reply to the final inquiry from the noble Lord, Lord Cushendun. I put it to him, and he must surely agree, that it must be for His Majesty's Government to consider what the effect of the publication of a particular document is. Nobody would wish to do any unfairness to the noble. Lord, Lord Strickland, or to anybody else. But surely your Lordships will realise that in a lengthy document there may be not merely justification of policy from Lord Strickland, but there might conceivably be a number of statements and expressions which would not help towards getting the necessary accommodation between the views which have caused this suspension of the Constitution. I appeal to the noble Lord. He must realise that I cannot, on behalf of the Government, consent to promise to publish further Papers at this moment because of that fact.
We feel that the publication of some of the Papers referred to would make it still more difficult for the Vatican, for instance, to do what we hope it will do—namely, withdraw the prohibition which the Bishops issued or find some other way of getting out of this deadlock. I am sorry to say that I am convinced that any further publication at this time would not be helpful. If your Lordships command that the documents shall be published, I can only say that I cannot consent and 162 whether they will be published or not I do not know. I really cannot consent as things are at present to go any further than to say that the matter shall be considered, and if it is not undesirable to publish they will be published. I want to warn your Lordships that I believe at the present moment it would be undesirable to publish those documents because they are distinctly documents which do not make for peace, and we want peace.
§ LORD CUSHENDUN
My Lords, if with the permission of the House I may speak again, I would like to say that after what has fallen from the noble Lord it would be impossible for me to insist further on my Motion for Papers. I think that is the invariable custom when one of His Majesty's Ministers says, as the noble Lord has said, that the Papers in question would not be for the public interest, and he has explained very intelligibly in what particulars they might do harm. In those circumstances, although I regret it, I feel that I cannot possibly insist further and I ask leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.