§ LORD STRICKLAND had given Notice that he would call attention to British interests about the Mediterranean and in particular as regards the political position in Malta; and move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am departing for Malta after to-morrow, giving evidence of an established conviction that the Government have been singularly successful in establishing and securing the peace of Europe. This conviction has been assisted by the saying, which is repeated all round the shores of the Mediterranean, that in a great war England loses all the battles except the last. The psychology so created was dwindling until rearmament was undertaken—undertaken perhaps just in time, and only just in time. But rearmament, to be effective, like everything else in this generation, must be thorough, and rearmament, as yet, has not been thorough in the Mediterranean. Another factor towards establishing peace in Europe is that promises made on behalf of England have more weight than undertakings made on behalf of other nations. There is room for strengthening that belief, and particularly in Malta. Another factor of great weight in considering our position in the Mediterranean is the fact that at last His Majesty's Government have realised the necessity—though not sufficiently—of authorising a separate naval Air Arm. That decision re-opens entirely the question of the inadequacy of air defence in the Mediterranean and calls for consideration of means for meeting that inadequacy.
I stand temporarily on the Opposition side of the House because I feel it a duty to repeat my support of my noble friend Lord Snell when the Palestine Report was considered, in approving of that general criticism in the Report as to certain branches of Colonial Office administration. The noble Lord went so far as to suggest
the necessity of transferring the administration of Palestine to some other Department. The particular passage that I feel it my duty to support in the interests of His Majesty's Government and as a duty to the land of my birth is as follows:
Crown Colony Government is nowadays mainly maintained for the wardship of politically backward races in the tropical and sub-tropical world.
There are other very grave points criticising details of administration in this Report, and I hope I may be forgiven if I express satisfaction at the fact that, although I have on various occasions offered criticisms of Colonial administration, never did I utter anything so weighty as that contained in this Report. Moreover, this Report has been accepted in toto without reservation by His Majesty's Government, and it therefore follows logically that the criticism addressed to certain points of Colonial administration has been accepted by His Majesty's Government as a whole. Of course I take advantage particularly of that declaration of acceptance in this Report inasmuch as it points out that Colonial Office administration is not suitable for Malta.
§ As to the keeping of promises and the strength to be added to peace by emphasising our reputation in that respect, and the psychology thereby engendered in the Mediterranean, may I say that among the matters affected by pledges, pacts, and covenants given in Malta is the apportionment of the waters of the harbour? These waters were ample when ships were small and could ride at their anchors. They are now entirely inadequate for the King's ships and for merchant ships. The promises made with reference to the apportionment of these waters are not liable to the variety of interpretations which are put on the Balfour Declaration or on any other promises made with reference to Palestine or other parts of the Mediterranean. They are set out in legal documents and contracts and detailed in maps which are hanging in public offices. Under present conditions, waters which are assigned to merchant ships have to he encroached on by the King's ships because there is no room elsewhere, and the captain of a British merchant vessel, when tried at the request of the naval authority, said in Court: "What is the 57 use of having naval squadrons to protect British trade when you will not let us trade?" That is the feeling which has arisen and is growing with reference to the impossibility of carrying out the pacts in connection with the apportionment of the waters.
§ In order to carry out these pacts there is only one way open, and that is to increase the harbour accommodation. That may cost money; so to other obligations which are sacred and which ought to be sacred, and which it is necessary to consider as sacred in order to uphold our prestige in the Mediterranean, this further one must be added. If it were only for its value as a gesture, the enclosing of the south-east bay should be undertaken without delay. That enclosure has become a paramount necessity for defence reasons. The Navy, after long argument, have been granted a small measure of separate control over air flying boats which are going to Malta. They will be going there in increasing numbers. It is no longer a question of whether that is within their radius of flight. It is notorious that these flying boats cannot rise if the water is rough. It is obvious, too, that the protection of landing places from rough water adds enormously to their efficiency, and it does not require the passage of an examination in tactics to say that, naturally, they will be attacked when the weather is rough. Therefore, if our system of defence with the use of flying boats is to continue, adequate space must be provided under sheltered conditions.
§ The answer in the past against these arguments—the answer that used to be made before the Navy had a separate Air Arm—was that it cost money. But then defence had not been seriously undertaken. Now we are paying for defence out of capital and not cut of income and the capital that might be invested in this would be as wisely employed as was the capital employed either in the Suez Canal or the Manchester Ship Canal. It would give to Malta, in the words of a late Air Minister, Lord Thomson, the position of being the Clapham Junction of the air. It would give to the trade of England the same supremacy in the air that we enjoy today in shipping and that has been enjoyed throughout the ages by the most important nations on the sea for thousands 58 of years, from the time of the Phoenicians who colonised Malta, Cornwall and the shores of the Irish Sea. It has been said that for defence purposes aeroplanes that rise from the land can get up more quickly. May be they can get up more quickly, but what about getting back? They will probably find that the landing places on shore will sooner or later, perhaps half an hour before the declaration of war, be a spectacle of mud heaps and potholes. If only for that reason the time has come for considering more sympathetically the necessity of enclosing the south-east bay.
§ Flying boats have doubled the radius of action of aircraft because they can go off to a rendezvous given by latitude and longitude anywhere on the water, and it is obvious that in view of the increase in the size of aircraft the flying boat is the craft of the future. This was urged in your Lordships' House ten years ago. Afterwards the late Lord Thomson's most precious life was lost by unmechanical reliance on the alleged virtues of lighter-than-air machines. Lord Thomson put this question to this House: What is Malta going to contribute? I was then unable to answer without consultation, but now, not being in a position of responsibility, I venture to make the suggestion that an Act of Parliament should be passed earmarking the unearned increment, which will be enormous, as the result of the construction of this air port, and saying that it has to belong to the authorities who constructed and not to the landlord. That is a sufficient actuarial answer to the assertion that money blocks the way, when we are committed to the expenditure of £1,500,000,000 for defence.
§ There is another promise that has been made which should be strengthened to increase British prestige. I refer to the announcement made on behalf of the Colonial Department by the present Earl De la Warr, predecessor of the noble Marquess the present repretative of the Colonial Office in your Lordships' House. His grandfather had obtained representative institutions for Malta, and he was allowed to say here that the suspension of those institutions was a temporary matter. Now it is axiomatic that promises and pledges given by a Government of that description should be implemented in the life of the Parliament in which those promises 59 are made. Two years have already elapsed since the commencement of this Parliament, and, instead of the appearance of a prospect of accomplishment, there has arisen a most astounding incident which gives evidence that the date of implementing this promise is nearer the Greek kalends than the end of this Parliament. Faith in that pledge has been rudely shaken by several recent acts for which the bureaucracy of Malta are responsible. They have obtained the repeal of the Audit Act, an Act passed by the elected Parliament, on the precedent of the Australian Audit Act, a magnificent measure to prevent corruption in democratic assemblies. That Audit Act has been repealed, and, that Audit Act having been repealed, what hope is there of a restitution of any form of representative government? Surely you are not going to repeal the Audit Act, which is a safeguard of democracy, if you are serious in saying that you are going to give back representative institutions at an early date or any date within the expected span of my own natural life.
§ It is said that the Colonial Regulations are going to take the place of the Audit Act. Just imagine whether an audit in London is any substitute for an audit in Malta by an open auditor protected in his independence the same as a Judge, appointed for seven years without being subject to removal, and bound to give a report every year of any abuses in financial administration. Your Lordships will not be surprised if in Malta the abolition of the Audit Act has produced the very worst impression. It has produced a bad psychological impression as evidence on the part of the bureaucracy there of an intention to treat those born in Malta as inferior to those born elsewhere—to those born in the East End or the West End, in the East of Europe, or in the Levant or China. The abolition of that Act is, to my mind, absolutely inexplicable. You can have an audit in the Colonial Office, but the principal object of that organisation is to whitewash and not to find fault, still less to dismiss or punish. If action is taken it is only after months and months of delay. I have myself, being confident of the law being on my side, even appealed to the Public Accounts Committee with no satisfaction whatever. Nothing has resulted except evasive 60 answers of the type that empty the benches in your Lordships' House.
§ I in no way wish to criticise the present Governor for this happening. No one could be more exemplary in devoting his time and energy to the civil side of the Maltese administration, notwithstanding the very heavy burden of defence. He is as whole-hearted as I am in working for equality of opportunity for British subjects in Malta. Those of us who have had experience cannot help realising, however, that a very clever and organised staff can govern otherwise than desired by the Governor and against the declared policy of the Colonial Office, provided they feel that the Military Governor has to be supported right or wrong, and that he himself must support those who work with him right or wrong. This feeling goes right down to the ranks of the police force. The feeling in Malta is that so long as we have no elective representation it is a waste of time to try to get redress of grievances. That feeling is spreading throughout Malta and is growing. There is also a feeling, amounting almost to certainty, that any attempt to obtain redress at Westminster, either through speeches and questions in your Lordships' House or in another place, will be met by concerted opposition and by cleverly drafted reports that make it very difficult, if not impossible, even for the best-intentioned Secretary of State to return anything but an evasive answer. I venture to submit to your Lordships that representative institutions are a necessity. Human nature is the same everywhere. There will be abuses unless there is machinery for exposing them, for criticising them and for imposing sanctions. The machinery that exists in Malta is machinery for negativing all those necessities, notwithstanding that Malta is not a conquered nation and that in accordance with all the findings of the highest tribunals in this country Malta is entitled to representative institutions. Those members of the Civil Service in Malta who have denied this and who have succeeded in getting that denial repeated in your Lordships' House, deserve very little sympathy from the rest of the population.
§ It is on record that the Maltese rose in rebellion against the French; that that rebellion became a successful revolution; that the French were starved out with the loss of 20,000 Maltese, and that not 61 a single English life was lost in conquering the French. There is no record, either, that any sum of money was lost, excepting so far as Nelson's ships blockaded Malta. Nelson declared that he did not NN ant Malta kept for England, which explains the international declaration upholding its independence. As a consequence of that state of things, the English Parliament being in favour of keeping Malta and Nelson having reported against it, an Act of Parliament was passed here in 1801, shortly after the Declaration of 1798, asserting that Malta was in Europe and asserting that the King legislated for Malta as a protected country. It is immaterial for legal argument whether there was a treaty to give a title. These facts give a title under International Law that is incontrovertible. In 1801 a Royal Proclamation was issued, in the name of the King of England, by a Civil Commissioner sent to Malta, taking the Maltese under the protection of England. There was no cession, no giving up of rights, but a promise of the rights of British subjects, and among those rights is the right not to be taxed without representation. Between that Proclamation and the Congress of Vienna, we have only a Declaration, which is in the Record Office, made by the one-time Governor of Malta, Sir Alexander John Ball, that Malta was given a guarantee of all rights, laws and religion. The Maltese were a constituted nation with an elected Assembly that had defeated the French, but at the time of the handing over to England, the Island was not handed over to the representatives of the Maltese Assembly. In order to save the face of the French General, a company of Marines was landed to take a formal surrender.
§ The principles of law that derive from these facts are set out in Calvin's case, the Bishop of Natal's case and Campbell versus Hall and others decided by the Privy Council. It is useless to refer to them. I can only remind this House that not a single Law Officer in the other House or in this House rose to defend the Letters Patent Act of last year. In response to appeals for some form of representation even if an international emergency existed we begged that an Executive Council should be reconstituted. Crown Colony Government is impossible without an Executive Council. No one can be tried and no official can be dis- 62 missed from the Civil Service without an Executive Council. For some reason or other, however, the Constitution was suspended and no Executive Council was created. An emergency existed in Malta, and so there was some ground for not doing so; at any rate the Governor could not or would not work with a Council. He went on for some time working without a Council in a way that is only found in the most severe kind of Crown Colony Government. We asked for an Executive Council with elected members on it, as in the Constitution of 1887. If we had received nothing it would have been much better, but nominated members were put in; not nominated by constituted bodies such as the Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber of Advocates or the various Parties, but nominated or recommended by a clique. The revulsion created by that step has been very strong and is growing. The established opinion in Malta is that these five nominated representatives arc receiving perquisites and pay for representing nobody but themselves. In the opinion of the general public, they are the recipients of what is nothing better than hush-money.
§ Colonial Office officials are trained to administer tropical Colonies, according to the Palestine Report, and therefore they have to be supported by the Home Office, because the Secretary of State has only ten minutes a day per Colony or Dependency in which he can give them his attention. As the Palestine Report points out, this training is psychologically unsuitable: it unfits officials to deal with conditions in countries where there is a long-established culture and an ancient history and tradition. This defect has reference particularly to the making of appointments. If a bad appointment is made under representative government, there is criticism. Under present conditions, when a bad appointment is made it is the business of the unofficial members on the Executive Council, who are put there on the recommendation of permanent officials, perhaps—or certainly —with the perfunctory approval of the Secretary of State. They are there to support what has been done by the officials. That is a grievance which, I put to His Majesty's Government, should he eliminated by the immediate cancellation of those appointments until the time when His Majesty's Government will 63 allow elected representation on the Executive Council.
§ I will give an amusing example of how the system is working. The Trades Union Council was created under the 1921 Constitution as a democratic counterweight to the representation of the nobles, the Church, the Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber of Advocates. As a farmer I was a member of the Trades Union Council, and for some time I was its President when I was in the House of Commons. That Trades Union Council developed as a stronghold of pro-British culture and pro-British feeling in Malta. Everything was done by those who held different views to destroy it. It was appreciated in the speech in which the present Secretary of State for the Colonies supported that curious Letters Patent Act, and he then undertook, when challenged by the Labour Party in another place, to support the Trades Union Council. The Royal Commission was persuaded to insert a provision in the Malta Constitution Act, 1932, which had the effect of expelling me from the Trades Union Council, of which I was President. It succeeded. It was put into the Bill; nobody knew what it meant except a few. I did not complain. Then we had the more recent Letters Patent Act of last year, and that clause was knocked out. Membership of the Trades Union Council has now again become open to nobles and graduates of the University if they are elected. Why should the Labourites not elect anybody they like, in a democratically-governed country?
§ And, my Lords, what has happened? A Union of Pilots has been created, and the representative of that Union of Pilots in the harbour of Malta and its great fortress who is now put into the Trades Union Council is one who in the Great War was condemned by a court-martial for disloyalty and sentenced to imprisonment. He got a free pardon afterwards. My successor as President of the Trades Union Council to-day is Joseph Orlando Smith, to whom a free pardon has been denied. He is most conspicuously loyal. He never holds a public meeting without calling for three cheers for the King, as I did whenever I held a meeting in Malta. This he does at the end of every meeting —Labourite meetings—to-day. The Maltese and the English flag are hung side 64 by side at these meetings. He has done several services to the security officers. They very seldom thank anybody, but he has got their written thanks for the importance of the services that he did. I took care to prove the truth of those important services by a case heard in the City of London before an English jury, where the merits of Joseph Orlando Smith were set forth by no less a person than the present Minister for Agriculture, who was then practising at the Bar.
§ I am assured by the highest authority that I am bound in honour to appeal to the English public for redress of the way in which ingratitude has been heaped on him in this case. It really handicaps me in my work for the defence of the Empire in Malta, because who will trust me for obtaining justice when it is denied in such a case as this to cover up the mistakes of a bureaucracy which was always supported by the Colonial Office? If there was any evidence at the trial justifying this course, or if there is any secret evidence, any Member of Parliament is entitled to know what it is. We ought to have a chance to prove that it is concocted. The noble Lord, Lord Snell, and other members of the Imperial Parliament went as a deputation to a former Secretary of State to ask for a free pardon in this case, pointing out that the leader of the less loyal Party had been given a free pardon, and that others had been given free pardons. We were given an appointment in the room of the Secretary of State in the House of Commons; that appointment was cancelled by telephone. We were transferred to the Under-Secretary's office in the Colonial Office; we were very courteously received, but we did not get a satisfactory reply. The Secretary of State informed me verbally that he was still considering the case. As yet we have had no written answer to the request that was put forward by a deputation of members of this House and of the other House. I will not deal now with the rights and wrongs of the case I only put it to your Lordships in this connection: it is a proof of the disproportion of the strength of bureaucracy in any attempt at obtaining redress through the working of non-representative institutions.
§ I do not want to detain your Lordships with these examples of the necessity for representative institutions. Very briefly, 65 the language question has been complicated by the less loyal Party. In the secondary schools a choice was imposed between Italian and French. We obtained, after fifty years of strife, the abolition of a third language from the elementary schools. Behind the backs of everyone of responsibility in Malta they are now making four languages compulsory. They have added Maltese and left the other three by the very careful expedient of putting words here and there in enactments. It is now compulsory in secondary schools to choose either Italian or French, besides Latin, English and Maltese, and the consequence is that everybody who has an Italian mother or ancestry chooses Italian as the second language, and has no difficulty in learning it, and gets more marks than the scholar who chooses French. Italian is just as much established as ever it was in the schools. No doubt the Colonial Office thinks it can be dealt with by words, but in the Mediterranean it is not words that we are accustomed to analyse. We want to see facts. What really count in the Mediterranean, East and West, North and South, are facts.
§ Another instance, and this will be the last. It has been the desire of Secretary of State after Secretary of State, and one Governor after another, to have a public school in Malta for the education of young gentlemen. Enterprises in that direction have failed in the past. Some philanthropic person was persuaded to try again by an endowment of £100,000, for which during the lifetime of the founder £5,000 a year was to be paid tax free in advance. It requires considerably more than a quarter of a million under the present rate of Income Tax and Super-Tax to produce that amount. The school was established and is very flourishing, but a building had to be found for this endowment. There was an empty hospital that nobody wanted. It had been offered to the less loyal side of politics—to those Ministers afterwards dismissed for non-co-operation—for £5, with the obligation of keeping it in repair and handing it over to the military if ever it was wanted in war time. They declined it. It is established in Malta, by laws and pacts, that certain properties which the military do not want have to be given over to the civil Government. This was not given over to the civil Government, and instead 66 of being offered on the same conditions for this college, a rack rent is being extorted. A few years ago I had a Question on the Notice Paper asking about this matter, and I was persuaded to take off that Notice with an assurance that the matter would be considered. It is still being considered, and the rack rent has been paid for seven years. It is not a great grievance, but it is worth being put before your Lordships as indicative of the struggle which those who ask for British culture in Malta have in carrying out what they think to be their duty in life in the circumstances in which Providence has placed them.
§ The concluding part of my Notice today is a Motion for Papers. Papers have been produced and printed on the Maltese constitutional question in the past, and I think the time has come when a Motion for the production of Papers should meet with sympathy from the Government. If there is anything to hide you need not put it in. I hope that I shall not be asked to withdraw my Motion but that the Government will undertake to publish a Blue-book pointing out their justification for some at least of these grievances. My Lords, I beg to move.
My Lords, the noble Lord who preceded me and who moved this Motion has dealt so fully with Malta that it is unnecessary for me to say much about that part of the Mediterranean or make that case, and I intend to follow him by enlarging on what he has already mentioned, the strategical position of the Mediterranean as a whole. All I would like to say about Malta is that I have spent many happy months there as a naval officer, and I was very sorry to hear that things were going so badly there. All I can say is: What do you expect with a Government like this in office? I had not intended to discuss the political position in the Mediterranean at all, but to venture to call attention to certain strategical facts. There is a great deal of unrest in the world, and depression which finds its repercussion in the stock markets. Apparently one of the causes is the fear of war. A great many people who are wondering whether there is going to be a war regard the Mediterranean as a danger spot.
I dare say your Lordships have the same experience as I do. When I meet 67 people in various ways of life one of the questions which they ask is whether I think there is going to be war, and another is when do I think it is going to break out. I suppose they think that because I am a member of your Lordships' House I have inside information. I try to use my common sense and give them what comfort I can. And particularly with regard to the Mediterranean I submit that a close examination of the facts will show that they are all against war in that sea. The reasoning which I venture to put before your Lordships is based upon certain theses which I must accept because they are the declaration of faith of the present Board of Admiralty, and they, as the advisers of His Majesty's Government, must therefore be accepted as the authority.
I am going to base my short summary, which will tend to show that our position in the Mediterranean is overwhelmingly strong, by accepting these three theses of the Admiralty: first of all, that the battleships or battle cruisers, the heavy ships of the line, are still the most important part of the Fleet and able to force decisions—I have my own views on that matter, but I am accepting the Admiralty view for the sake of my argument; secondly, that battleships and other surface warships will not be driven off the board in war by aircraft—I believe that is also the Admiralty view—and, thirdly, that we have adequate methods for dealing with submarines; I believe that is also the Admiralty view. I also make another supposition on which to base this case—namely, that even this Government will not be so clumsy as to break with France, and that we can rely upon the support of at least certain other Members of the League of Nations in case of aggression. In what I am going to say I want to make it perfectly clear that I am making no sort of attack on Italy, rather I want to calm those people, if I may get the support of the noble Marquess who will follow me in doing so, who take a very sinister view of Italian intentions and at the same time grossly exaggerate the Italian power for mischief.
The first point I would make is this, and I speak with great diffidence in the presence of very distinguished soldiers in this House. At the present moment the Italian strategical situation in case of a 68 major war is extraordinarily weak, because they have three large armies overseas, in Abyssinia, in Spain, including if you like Majorca, and in Libya. These armies represent at least half a million hostages to fortune, and in the absence of a naval miracle—and miracles do not often happen in war—these forces would be instantly and irrevocably cut off. Certain people make an objection and become alarmed because of the large Italian military force in the Colony of Libya, but I should have thought, looking at the situation as a whole, that the more troops that go to Libya the less likely is the Italian Government to carry its policy of—how shall I put it?—of peaceful bluff beyond the safety limit. Every extra battalion sent to Libya—or to Abyssinia, for that matter—is one more guarantee that we shall not be tried too far. I challenge any noble Lord to search history and find a weaker strategical position than that of an inferior naval Power in the centre of the Mediterranean, with three large military forces scattered so far away as Ethiopia, Libya and Spain.
I wonder whether the Lord President of the Council in his youth or other noble Lords ever wasted their time by playing a very interesting game of skill at cards called poker. It used to be very popular when I was a young man, and I regret to say I wasted some of the time which I should have devoted to my naval studies in playing that game. I remember enough of it to remind your Lordships who may not be familiar with it that success in that game depends on making the other players think that you have more in your hand than you have really got. If you do that successfully you can win a lot of money. If, on the other hand, you are afraid to play a hand which you have and which is strong because the other man successfully bluffs you, you will lose money. That is the essence of this game, in case the Lord President of the Council did not waste his youth in pursuits of that sort. The game of international politics to-day, I regret to say, is very like that well known card game, which used to be the national card game of America, and which I think has much more in it than any other card game. Our Government have, I am sorry to say, up till now allowed themselves to be successfully bluffed all along the line, and yet we have overwhelming strength in our hands, as I propose to endeavour to prove.
69 This army in Libya is spoken of as a possible threat to Egypt. Anyone who knows that part of the world—and the Lord President is numbered among those —must know that the project of attacking Egypt and the Nile by land from Libya under modern conditions is absolutely fantastic. There are only two ways of getting from Libya to Egypt by land. One is along the coast by way of Sollum and we have the railway up to that point—I believe it has now been extended to Sollum, and this railway is under fire from the sea. Furthermore, if a hostile army did advance along that coastal route it could be attacked from the rear very easily by landings from the sea. The other way is by the old caravan route to the south across the desert by way of the Siwa oasis. That is over four hundred miles long, it is practically waterless, and the idea of a great mechanised army such as Marshall Balbo is supposed to have organised there advancing by way of the Siwa oasis to the Nile over 400 miles of waterless desert is absurd. And if attempted what a target for air attack!
The attempt was made by the natives of the desert when the Germans in the Great War—and they were quite entitled to do it of course—bribed the Senussi or certain of the Senussi to make an invasion of Egypt. And they did make the attempt, travelling light, as they do. A few dispirited men, starving and thirsty, worn out with fatigue, did actually reach the Nile and promptly surrendered, only too glad to do so, without a shot being fired. To think of a modern army following the southern route across the desert to the Nile is, I submit, absolutely absurd. And in any case, after all, that army in Libya would have other things to do. It would have its work cut out to defend its back door against a very efficient force in French Tunisia organised for European warfare.
While I am mentioning this I wonder if your Lordships will forgive me if I draw attention to a very notable episode—I am afraid it is largely forgotten nowadays— when a similar though successful attempt was made to invade from Egypt what is now Libya by an American force working from Alexandria. I was looking this matter up and my attention was drawn to this remarkable episode. I am referring to the exploits of William Eaton, a famous 70 American soldier and diplomat. At that time, at the beginning of the last century, the United States of America was intervening very actively in European affairs, and to very good effect, in suppressing piracy in the Mediterranean, and Eaton had the task of subduing the piratical exploits of the local pasha at Derna, in what is now the Italian Colony of Libya. He marched from just west of Alexandria along the coast and across the desert boo miles with a few Americans, sixty Greek mercenaries, and some Arab cavalry—an heroic march and a great epic in military history. He reached Derna with this handful of bold adventurers, and with the aid of Commodore Rogers' squadron of three American frigates he reduced Derna and held it against counter-attack and siege and brought about peace and the suppression of piracy. He faced most considerable difficulties on the way. His native troops mutinied, they were short of all kinds of supplies, and only his indomitably courage and force of character cared the expedition through to a successful conclusion. There are two lessons to be learned from a study of that campaign. One is the terrible difficulties of a land expedition across the Libyan desert, for though General Eaton was going from east to west, the difficulties from west to east are of course equally great. Secondly this campaign showed the absolute necessity for such an expedition to have command of the sea.
That brings me to the question of command of the sea, and that is apposite to what the noble Lord, Lord Strickland, has been saying about Malta. There is a lot of loose talking about the threat in the Mediterranean from certain Powers against us. Let us take the worst possible case of a war. I am of course assuming that the present Government will pursue their present policy of working closely in harmony with the French Government. Supposing—what is by no means certain—there is war in the Mediterranean, and that the Germans assist. Supposing, which is most unlikely, the Germans can afford to denude the Baltic of all naval force. Let us reckon the available naval strengths, which I shall do so quite briefly if your Lordships will bear with me. These figures are taken from the latest Admiralty return of fleets —the Dilke return. In the matter of capital ships, which we are told are still the decisive factors in naval warfare, 71 France and Great Britain have built 22, and Italy and Germany 4. These four are all Italian and they were all built before the War. I understand that two of them have been laid up permanently, and in any case they are of an early, small, and semi-obsolete type. That is 22 against 4.
Then we come to this new class of curious warship, the pocket battle cruiser, of which the Germans have three—not very formidable, as they themselves will admit; compromise ships built under the restrictions of the Treaty of Versailles. Of aircraft carriers—very important in the Mediterranean—we have nine along with the French, and our possible opponents have none. Of heavy cruisers we have 22 and the Berlin-Rome Axis 7. Of light cruisers we have 57 and our possible opponents 16. Of destroyers we have 104 and they have 51. Of submarines, about which we hear so much in the Mediterranean, we have 113, and our possible opponents 88. As for those building, I understand that the British shipbuilding programme is going ahead very fast; but taking capital ships we and the French between us have 5 great battleships building, and so have the Italians and the Germans between them. So they are not closing that gap, and the gap is enormous. The margin of strength at sea in the Mediterannean is very great indeed, even allowing for the fact that we may have to maintain important naval forces in more distant seas. It would be unthinkable to suppose we could lose command of the sea unless there was either a naval miracle or most extraordinary blundering. I do not see how it is possible otherwise.
Now we come to the aircraft question. I have not any secret information, and I understand that one of the most difficult things at the present time is to assess the first-line strength of various Air Forces; but I believe I am right in saying that if we take ourselves and the French together, find the Germans and Italians together, the forces are about equal. I also admit, of course, that it is very difficult to assess relative efficiency in gauging aircraft strength. You cannot really do it, but to speak of our possible opponents being in overwhelming strength in the air is untrue. I have had to speak of war because so many people are talking about it without proper excuse. If 72 there is a war it will not be decided, in my humble submission, by what happens in the Mediterranean. It will be decided by what happens in the air over the English Channel and North Sea and over the lands of north-western Europe. But we are discussing the Mediterranean and I merely mention that in passing.
The noble Lord, Lord Strickland, spoke about certain weaknesses at Malta. There were certain weaknesses exposed in 1935, but I presume they have been put right. If not, it is a very serious indictment of His Majesty's Government; but I am taking it for granted that the exposed weaknesses in certain directions have been made good. We have had plenty of warning anyhow. There is one weakness, which must remain a weakness, and it is a very serious one—that is the weakness surrounding the great naval base at the western exit of the Mediterranean, Gibraltar. For physical reasons, and on account of the development of modern weapons, Gibraltar is now weak as a naval base. In this sketch I am attempting to make for your Lordships I am calculating on the use of the French bases as an alternative, but Gibraltar is certainly to-day not the invulnerable fortress we used to be taught it was years ago. It has two disadvantages. In the first place its dockyard is to-day under distant artillery fire in case of a hostile Spain or a hostile force in Spain, which is the same thing. That is a very serious disability. The other serious disability which no one can help—it is purely physical—is the lack of adequate landing ground for aircraft. You cannot get over that. The noble Marquess, Lord Dufferin, under whose Department Gibraltar comes, knows that is true. Everyone else knows it is true, and I am exposing no secret. As to the talk of heavy guns on the other side of the Straits of Gibraltar, in the situation I am envisaging that part of Spanish Morocco would be very quickly over-run by the large and highly efficient French Army in Morocco. Nothing could prevent them walking into Spanish Morocco, and after a few weeks that menace of guns on the other side of the Straits would be removed.
The situation at Gibraltar has exercised me and alarmed me personally for many years. The noble Marquess, if he likes to call for it, will find a memorandum which I wrote in 1916 when I was serving at Gibraltar as Assistant 73 Chief of Staff and which was sent on by my Admiral with his approval, in which I pointed out these weaknesses at that time. I then made the suggestion that we should take the opportunity of the general settlement after the War to negotiate an exchange of Gibraltar with the Spanish Government—a friendly arrangement—and take Ceuta on the other side of the Straits instead. Ceuta has a bay that is capable of being turned into an excellent harbour. It has a hinterland, and a trade could be developed with that hinterland. There would be plenty of room for landing grounds for aeroplanes, and it would not be subject to the threat of long-range artillery fire from the Spanish hills that Gibraltar suffers from. That is the weak spot, and I hope what I have spoken about, and which I know has been carefully considered by the War Staff at the Admiralty for many years, is not being lost sight of.
But, apart from Gibraltar and its undoubted difficulties, our strength in the Mediterranean generally, east to west, is overwhelming, and we have another great advantage. In case we could not, temporarily let us suppose, maintain ourselves throughout the whole length of the Mediterranean we could use the Cape route for our communications with the East, but our potential enemies in the Mediterranean cannot do that. They must use the Mediterranean or have their whole seaborne commerce cut off. The moment a war starts, while we can keep up our supplies, the slow, steady pressure of the severance of sea communications would begin, and all history has shown that eventually the cutting off of sea communications is fatal. I submit that a careful examination of the real facts in the Mediterranean shows that there is no danger of a major war beginning there, whatever other dangers there may be in other parts of the world. It would be outside the terms of this Motion on the subject of our debate to go into them.
There is no excuse, therefore, for a policy of weakness and continued retreat on the part of the Government, and still less for panic and nerves—what are popularly "the jitters"—on the part of the public and the gentlemen who deal in securities and stocks and shares and that sort of thing on the various bourses and money markets of the world. The position 74 we are in is very, very strong indeed. I think it should be known, and the people should be told these things. One reason for this feeling of uneasiness on the part of the public has been that for years past leading and influential members of the Party opposite have made a practice of telling the people of this country that our defences are weak, the reason being, of course, that they wanted more money for the Army, Navy and Air Force, and they thought it was necessary to panic and frighten the people for that purpose. We on our side have always said that our defences are strong, while admitting that in many respects, I dare say, they were in need of improvement. But with our economic situation, with our shipping situation, with our naval situation and our naval bases that exist throughout the world, and particularly in the Mediterranean, our position is immensely strong compared with that of any possible aggressors who might threaten us.
THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (THE MARQUESS OF DUFFERIN AND AYA)
My Lords, I think that I had better begin my speech by referring to the mover of the Motion which we are discussing to-day, my noble friend Lord Strickland. I am not quite sure from his movements whether I can any longer call him a noble friend, or whether merely a noble Lord, but whichever he is he has perplexed many of my predecessors at the Colonial Office and no doubt he will continue to perplex me in my turn. We all know that stern tenacity of purpose which he shows in his debating, and, steeped as he is in the law, the history and the traditions of Malta, which he is so well acquainted with both through his parental and his political upbringing, he offers, I am sure, a problem to the most enthusiastic Under-Secretary. But, as I very shortly hope to show, I feel very strongly that we must more admire him for his persistent offensive than for his adroitness in disentangling himself from impossible situations and impossible charges. There is not one single charge that he has brought against His Majesty's Government, or against the Colonial Office, which has not already been fully refuted and fully answered by one of my predecessors. Sometimes my predecessors appear to have answered diplomatically, sometimes 75 they appear to have answered bluntly, but I must say quite frankly to him that as far as I can see the answers will always be the same, and it will not make the slightest difference what sort of Government may be in power at the time.
But before I actually pass to these charges, I would like to refer, if I may, to the broader issues which my noble friend has invoked and which have provoked a speech from the Bench opposite. I do not think that anyone who heard the mover of this Motion speak would expect me to deal more than very generally with the position in the Mediterranean. It is not for me to stray outside the rather narrow bounds that Lord Strickland himself has set, but behind that noble Lord's Maltese recollections there are certain matters raised by Lord Strabolgi to which I, as the spokesman of the Government, should give an immediate reply. I do not think that the noble Lord will expect me to follow him into the very difficult matters of stategy and the like which he has raised. I would only myself express the opinion that I cannot quite sec that this counting of heads or counting of warships in public is really very conducive to world peace. But let me say at once that our Mediterranean policy follows exactly the lines laid down by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, when he declared that so far as the Mediterranean was concerned our sole concern was to protect it as a highway along which the traffic of the world may pursue its course undisturbed.
It was with this intention in mind that His Majesty's Government concluded with the Italian Government last January a Joint Declaration which, it will be remembered, recognised that freedom of entry into, exit from and transit through the Mediterranean was of vital interest both to ourselves and to Italy. That Declaration, for various reasons, did not have the full effect intended, but His Majesty's Government remain of the same mind, that a sincere understanding with Italy is one of the main foundations of peaceful conditions in the Mediterranean. That those have been His Majesty's Government's wishes in every respect is clear enough. Your Lordships will remember the exchange of letters which took place at the end of July between the Prime Minister and Signor Mussolini, and I do not think it is necessary for me to remind 76 you in detail of the numerous speeches which have been made on this subject by my right honourable friend in which he has made it perfectly clear that while, of course, we are bound to have regard to British and Imperial interests, we have no other wish than to live in peace and friendship with our neighbours in the Mediterranean. I should like to state that once again by repeating the words used by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary on a very recent occasion when he said:Our position in the Mediterranean is essentially this"—and this merely repeats what I started this part of my speech by saying—that we mean to maintain a right of way on this main arterial road. We are justified in expecting that such a right should be unchallenged. We have never asked, and we do not ask to-day, that that right should be exclusive.If that is the general position of our feelings towards Italy and one of the main foundations of our Mediterranean policy, it is of course natural that my noble friend should bring up this question of reinforcements in Libya. We are aware that in April last the Italian Government announced their intention of reinforcing their garrison, and that the scale of the reinforcement has been subsequently increased. I would remind my noble friend, and I think he agrees with me, that in times like these it is inevitable that any movement of troops may acquire an entirely exaggerated significance. I would therefore repeat what Mr. Eden said a few days ago that so far as the international situation is concerned, His Majesty's Government are not aware of any change which has rendered this reinforcement necessary. But as I said earlier, at such moments troop movements may often acquire an exaggerated significance.
The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, also raised the question of the defences of Malta and of Gibraltar. So far as Malta is concerned, my noble friend will no doubt be surprised, but I think will be glad, to hear that the defences are being taken in hand very rapidly. So far as Gibraltar is concerned—on this matter the noble Lord was kind enough to give me notice—he is, as he said, aware that there has been a very considerable controversy for a very considerable time. I must put it to him that surely there are two paramount considerations. The first is that 77 at any rate we have already got Gibraltar. We have fortified Gibraltar, and we have put our money into Gibraltar. If we were to change horses now, so to speak, we would have a very expensive saddler's bill to pay in putting our affairs in order in our new base. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, took rather too much for granted the idea that Gibraltar is untenable. There is a very grave difference of opinion on that matter. Very great experts disagree about that, but they are, as far as I know, agreed at any rate that if such sad circumstances should arise that would prove Gibraltar untenable, then equally the noble Lord's alternative would be untenable.
I am afraid I did not explain myself quite clearly. If the noble Marquess will forgive me, I should like to say that I did not mean that the fortress is untenable. It is capable of very prolonged defence against any force that could be brought against it. But if the harbour is exposed to long distance fire from the land it is not useful for the Fleet. There is a difference between holding a fortress as a strong point and being able to use a naval base.
THE MARQUESS OF DUFFERIN AND AVA
I see my noble friend's point, but I think I am correctly expressing the views of those best qualified to know when I say that the two alternatives are equal. If under the hypothesis that my noble friend suggested Gibraltar would be untenable, then equally Ceuta would be untenable.
The difference is that with Ceuta you could have a larger hinterland and a greater perimeter of defence. You cannot have that at Gibraltar. Your lines are too close.
THE MARQUESS OF DUFFERIN AND AVA
I am obviously very stupid, but I do not quite see the advantage of the hinterland. I understood that it was the Fleet that was in question. The hinterland does not affect the Fleet. You are not going to put the Fleet in the hinterland out of range of guns. I am fully aware that I cannot argue naval matters with a naval officer, but that seems to me the obvious answer. I think that I have now dealt with everything that the noble Lord opposite raised, and I therefore turn reluctantly to consider the speech of the mover of this Motion, and 78 to defend as best I can the office which I have the honour of representing against some of his more remarkable accusations. I must frankly say that this matter has given me a very great deal of difficulty, because although I have listened to my noble friend for seven years now in this House I have never yet been able to understand or fathom his intellectual processes. I listened to him this afternoon, and he seemed to me to start off in the grand manner. He began by painting for us the whole vast panorama of the Empire and of Imperial responsibilities, of our trade routes to the Far East and the treasure house of India. Then, just as our minds were getting accustomed to that grand diorama, suddenly the whole issue seemed to narrow down to some particular injustice which my noble friend feels has been done in Malta. I confess that my mental eye is not sufficiently quick at changing its focus to be able to appreciate the reasoning which actuated my noble friend's speech.
If I were to take his charges in order, I think I should find that they came in this order. First of all he spoke of the breakwater. On that I can only repeat—and I am afraid that this will apply to all the answers I am going to give—the reply that my noble friend the Earl of Plymouth has given on more than one occasion. That is that the money for this breakwater, as my noble friend knows, would have to come from Imperial funds. The Air Ministry are not convinced that this very large expenditure is justifiable, and they are not convinced that the future of Malta as an airport is necessarily based on flying boats. They may be right or they may be wrong, but that is their convinced opinion, and it is really no good my noble friend raising this matter over and over again unless he has persuaded the Air Ministry beforehand that they are wrong and he is right.
§ LORD STRICKLAND
May I ask what the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence exists for? May I ask whether it is not certain that the naval view is quite different from that of the Air Ministry?
THE MARQUESS OF DUFFERIN AND AVA
I can assure my noble friend that all the experts are agreed on this matter. He again referred to the difficult matter of the Constitution of Malta. My noble 79 friend the Earl of Plymouth said in several speeches that the Constitution of Malta is not intended to be permanent. We hope that it will be possible to go further, in time, in the direction of associating unofficial opinion with the Government.
THE MARQUESS or DUFFERIN AND AVA
It seems quite clear from the very debate we have had to-night that the time for that change must depend, not merely on conditions in Malta, but also on conditions in the Mediterranean itself. Is it not abundantly clear that the time for that change has not yet come? Thirdly, we have a very old case revived, the case of Orlando Smith, whether the Government should have given him a free pardon or whether they should merely have remitted his sentence. The remittance of sentence or the giving of pardon is part of the Prerogative of the King. The King delegates some part of his Prerogative to the Governor, and I really must ask my noble friend to absolve the Secretary of State for the Colonies from departing from habitual practice; that is to say, that he does not interfere, as a rule, with the exercise of the Prerogative of mercy through the Governor. My right honourable friend sees no reason at all—and I hope Lord Strickland will take this as a final answer—why he should interfere in this particular case with the usual practice.
Finally, my Lords, I turn to the question of St. Edward's School, which my noble friend raised. I should like, as I have perhaps not always been as courteous as I should have desired to be if I had been able to choose my words more carefully, to pay a very warm tribute to Lady Strickland for her immense generosity and munificence in the endowment of that school, which is doing an enormous amount of good in Malta.
THE MARQUESS OF DUFFERIN AND AVA
I can further assure my noble 80 friend that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has great sympathy with him over this question of rent which he has raised. But, as he knows, the land in question belongs to the War Department, and the proposal that he has made involves certain points of principle with regard to the tenure of military land. We have not been able to resolve them yet, but I can assure him that my right honourable friend will give the most careful consideration to everything that he has stated on the point to-night. I am glad to be able to close on a rather friendlier note than that on which I started. I must apologise if my speech has been rather discursive; I have had to answer for four Departments besides my own, and in view of that fact I think my noble friend will agree that it would be very difficult, if not quite impossible, for me to lay any Papers.
§ LORD RENNELL
My Lords, at the end, as I presume it to be, of this debate I only wish to say something which will not take me more than one minute. While I have every sympathy with the anxiety displayed by the mover of the Motion about the present situation in the Mediterranean, and with his desire for more information, I have on the other hand always had considerable misgivings about the discussion of foreign affairs in Parliament. Utterances even of private members, which can only be based on presumption, have the habit of being interpreted abroad, as I have seen continually in all the countries in which I have lived, as expressions of British political opinion. In raising certain questions to-day, reference has been made to potential or hypothetical enemies, and the whole military and naval position seems to be considered in regard to that point. I could not explain to-day, except at considerable length, why I do not anticipate those dangers in the Mediterranean or feel that there was any real justification for bringing up the military situation. I think, however, that it is rather regrettable that words should be used here which imply the possibility of our having in the immediate future a potential or hypothetical enemy, and which can obviously only be answered in very non-committal words by the spokesman of the Government. All this, I think, tends to create prejudice rather than clarification.
§ LORD STRICKLAND
My Lords, in craving the indulgence of your Lordships to submit an answer, may I ask your Lordships to remember that during the suspension of representative institutions in Malta this is the only place where redress of grievances can be asked? For a year I have made a point of not mentioning Malta. Before, however, showing which are the new points raised to-day, which have not been answered, or meeting the allegation that everything has been answered in previous debates, when in fact very little, old or new, has been answered, I feel it a duty to dissociate myself entirely from two points of view which were dealt with by my noble friend Lord Strabolgi. I am quite convinced that Gibraltar is as impregnable to-day as it ever was. We have among other authorities that of a former Governor, Governor Godley, who has written on the subject a most convincing memorandum. The truth is that the town of Gibraltar cannot be defended and might be wiped out, but the fortress and the rock will be as expensive, or more expensive, to attack and stronger than it ever was. That is my firm conviction. As to transferring a British centre of power anywhere else, considering the expense and the greater difficulty of defence involved in such a proceeding, apart from the detrimental moral effect it would have as a gesture, I am surprised that it could ever have been advocated, as it has been, by Admirals who have served in those waters.
The other point on which I do not quite share the view of the noble Lord is the view that Malta was defended at the time of the Abyssinian campaign—it might have been held but it was not safe at that period. There was not in Malta at that time reserve ammunition for fifteen minutes, there was not a gun that could outrange a possibly hostile cruiser. About 12,000 was the number in the British regiments in the Island, and 40,000 troops were massed opposite. The number of submarines about has been said by a former Commander-in-Chief in Malta to have been at times in the Mediterranean as numerous as corks popping up in the water. Malta was safe then because of years of counter propaganda to persuade the Maltese of their duty and their interest to be as thoroughly loyal to England as I hope I am myself. There is no doubt that 82 the reports which were received throughout the Mediterranean of the loyalty of the Maltese, notwithstanding grievous' wrongs inflicted upon them, and the knowledge which others had of that loyalty, and because of the improvement made in the system of education, and the proof that attempts to make use of ecclesiastical organisations for political purposes had produced reactions that will not be risked again, and had failed in obtaining domination—those were reasons that contributed to make Malta safe at that time rather than the position suggested by my noble friend Lord Strabolgi.
As to the admirable speech from a rhetorical point of view of my noble friend representing the Colonial Department, the noble Marquess began by arguing that every question involved in my submission to your Lordships had been answered before. If the noble Marquess will be pleased to look at the OFFICIAL REPORT, I should be grateful if he can tell me when I ever mentioned the rent of St. Edward's College in this House before. I refrained from having a question on the Paper in the hope some years ago that something would he doné if nothing was said. The military, I now gather, are taking legal advice to urge legal claims to possession over the ground, value of old fortifications on which they have built. If this had not been excluded by the Harper Report it would not have taken all these years to give an answer. Sir Edgar Harper was brought in to adjudicate upon all these questions. He was brought in as an arbitrator by the Military Governor, but the military authorities appear now not to accept his report, and they are sticking to their power to enforce a rack rent.
As to the enclosing of the south-east bay, I have put new facts before your Lordships' House of great importance. I have pointed out that since a previous debate the separate Naval Air Force, even if inadequate, is a new fact. Naval experts are enthusiatic about the great need of additional anchorage accommodation. Experts are enthusiastic about the enclosure of the south-east bay. The necessity of this measure is understood and the view is shared by experts, military and naval, and also by many connected with the Air Force—not to mention the late Lord Thomson. The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, the Secretary of State for Air, made his maiden 83 speech in this House with reference to that subject. The question was on one point—namely, whether the Imperial Government would give permission—not a subsidy—for the revision of the plans and estimates previously submitted and most carefully made by the Public Works Department in Malta with detailed calculations as to the cost. There was no answer at all on the point of the question.
THE MARQUESS OF DUFFERIN AND AVA
His answer was exactly the same as I gave to the noble Lord. I based my answer upon it.
§ LORD STRICKLAND
This does not prove that on the point of the question any answer was given. It is easy to check this by the OFFICIAL REPORT. The answer was a general negative, and that is still the attitude of my noble friend opposite. My Lords, there can be no more potent factor in increasing the defences of Malta than the submission of all questions together to the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. That Minister should have more power where experts differ widely. He should have power to override the Secretary of State for Air and the spokesmen of other Departments. It would be conducive to defence if he should not only have the support of the Cabinet but, as far as possible, the support of a law passed for the purpose of extending the scope of co-ordination and of overriding negatives altered by new facts. The very fact that there has been no answer to the last question dealt with on this submission is proof that there is no answer to the new aspect, and the attitude of the noble Marquess proves that the Department has no answer, except to say: "Look at the file." Lord Thomson, when he was Secretary of State for Air, with great ability and foresight, and also Lord Londonderry, pointed out that the time had not yet come for placing reliance upon the range of flying boats. The time has come; we have the necessary facts. We read of flying from Moscow, and flying over the North Pole and beyond San Francisco. Is not that a new factor, and yet I am told I have put forward to-day nothing new !
There is something very new about the case of Joseph Orlando Smith—namely, that the Secretary of State has, since the advent of the new Governor, interfered 84 in that case to the prejudice of Joseph Orlando Smith, and very heavily so. The noble Marquess speaks of great regard for the procedure in cases of the grant of pardon. The Governor by his Instructions, consults the Executive Council thereupon. In the Executive Council there is that very Minister dismissed for non-co-operation, who was the Minister of Police in office when Orlando Smith was prosecuted and persecuted, and when the relevant evidence against him was produced in court, Orlando Smith, as editor of the Labour paper, had possession of a book by Lord Passfield, a former Secretary of State for the Colonies, which was condemned as seditious with other literature of a similar character. It is this very ex-Minister of Police, who is now in the Executive Council. If the refusal of a free pardon is to be defended by saying that the Secretary of State for the Colonies wants to be meticulous and punctilious and over-bureaucratic as to procedure, he is caught in his own trap. That very same ex-Minister of Police, who was in office when Orlando Smith was prosecuted, was also Minister of Police when, owing to his policy in the control of the police, Letters Patent were published to take that control away from Maltese Ministers, thereby destroying the democratic Constitution. He was of course called upon by his colleagues to resign, which he ought to have done, and there ought to have been a change of Ministry or a General Election as an appeal to the electors to whom Ministers are subject. And it is said by those who should know in Malta that the refusal of this now selected member of the Executive Council to resign, was due to the desire of the bureaucracy to add to the arguments and expedients that they were organising to wreck the Constitution of 1921. For that service to the powers that be in Malta this man certainly deserves some consideration from them. And he has received consideration by being selected for the Executive Council, and he is now receiving his salary. Another consideration is that the Governor, if he has been advised not to pardon Joseph Orlando Smith, would not like to reject the advice of advisers appointed by the Secretary of State.
These are all new facts accrued since I last spoke upon the subject. But there is more in reply to the suggestion that I have submitted nothing new. Does the 85 noble Marquess maintain that a Secretary of State for the Colonies can renounce his inalienable duty to advise His Majesty the King on all questions of the Prerogative? He cannot relinquish responsibility by delegation. What would be said if someone were to justify that by arguing that, a footman having been given orders to open the door, the butler was barred from opening it? That is a parallel with the legal responsibility for the use of the Prerogative in this case.
THE MARQUESS OF DUFFERIN AND AVA
The noble Lord is too good a lawyer not to have understood me. I said it was not the usual practice for the Colonial Secretary to interfere when the Prerogative of mercy is delegated to the Governor.
§ LORD STRICKLAND
We are dealing with a combination of circumstances that occurred before the present Governor came to office; we are dealing with the present position when the Constitution is suspended and with the overriding of a previous Governor. When the Constitution is suspended the Colonial Secretary is responsible for everything in Malta. Appeal to normal conditions is not the point. The Secretary of State is responsible for being able to produce an answer in another place or here to anybody who asks a question on details of administration till representation is restored. It is necessary to discuss these questions here, and it is constitutional and unavoidable. And it should not be said that there is nothing but repetition when new aspects are submitted. I make it my duty to bring forward only new facts and new matters when any question is reopened. That is the position to-day as to the case of Joseph Orlando Smith. What is more, he has been elected under the law as President of the Trades Union Council. He has at public meetings made speech after speech of the most loyal character, and he has rendered services by counteracting efforts of Communists to undermine the loyalty of the dockyard workers. Spies were put into his executive for the purpose of undermining their position, 86 and Mr. Joseph Orlando Smith had the courage to turn out the spies. It is for these services to British culture in Malta that he is entitled to periodical consideration. 1 ask whether any member of your Lordships' House or of Parliament in another place has not the right to be told fully if there is some secret charge against him. It is a repetition of the atmosphere in the Dreyfus case in France, if not exactly on all fours, and there is just the same duty for those entitled to demand justice to see it through by appeals to public opinion. It is also a point that is quite new that in the absence of any safety valve for complaints as to the making of recent appointments, one has to bring the complaints up here where alone freedom of speech is possible. These complaints have been made over and over again in Malta. It is a continual and increasing grievance that favouritism is excessive, and the increase of that grievance and the wave of public opinion form a new fact.
I admire the wisdom of the noble Marquess who replied for the Government in not joining issue on legal and historical rights. No Law Officer in another place dared to join issue in Parliamentary debate in support of the Letters Patent Bill of 1936 because the arguments against it were quite unanswerable. The noble Earl, Lord Plymouth, has said over and over again on points of law "I am advised," "I am advised." By whom? It may be by a clerk in the Colonial Office, it has never been by a barrister of authority whose name could be given. It was stated that the Government were taking the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown, but they did not produce it and evidently could not do so with advantage. A further answer on this point is "We shall meet at Philippi"—when the new ultra vires case comes before the Privy Council. The Bill of 1936 was carefully drafted by the Parliamentary draftsman so as to comply with instructions and at the same time avoid challenging the English Common Law. In that they succeeded as far as the Bill can have effect but no further. The draftsmen obeyed their orders very narrowly; they provided powers that are exhausted; they did not commit themselves to giving power to make new non-representative constitutions. By the full use of the powers given the Act has already become unworkable. I have ob 87 tained a judgment in the new case on grounds which cannot possibly be sustained before any Court administering the Common Law such as the Privy Council, and it is with great pleasure I look forward to a new Act of Parliament.
As to whether all I have said on the subject is stale and beyond argument, I would refer the noble Marquess to some remarks of the noble and learned Viscount from the Woolsack in other constitutional debates. One step that should be taken at once, for constitutional reasons, is to save the money and the expense involved in paying members of the Executive Council selected on the advice of the bureaucracy to sit in the Executive Council, and able to act as a screen between a new Governor and the blunders of the past. In Malta now nobody wants them; they represent nobody but themselves. It is very much better to have nobody in the Executive Council than to have some persons there who can be referred to as an excuse for saying that a new Constitution has been granted when no Constitution has been given and 88 when, as a matter of fact, there has been a negation of all rights of representation. This position is very far from complimentary to a loyal population that have not been conquered. This attitude makes it very difficult to go on recruiting helpers in favour of the spread of British culture which has been the purpose of a lifelong campaign in the circumstance in which Providence places those who are loyal both to Malta and to England.
§ On Question, Motion for Papers negatived.