(Class 5.)

Orders of the Day — Colonial Services. – in the House of Commons on 9th March 1920.

Alert me about debates like this

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £225,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1920, for sundry Colonial Services, including certain Grants in Aid.

Photo of Mr George Thorne Mr George Thorne , Wolverhampton East

I would ask the hon. Member (Lieut.-Colonel Amery) when he is replying to explain the somewhat alarming increase in reference to Somali-land. The Estimate is almost double the original figure and the explanation given as to unforeseen and increased charges is exceedingly vague.

Photo of Commander Hon. Joseph Kenworthy Commander Hon. Joseph Kenworthy , Kingston upon Hull Central

It may save time if I tell the hon. Gentleman who will reply to the points on which we want enlightenment As regards Somaliland, is this expenditure to meet the cost of the expedition against the Mullah; if so, how was this expenditure incurred in starting what is practically a new war without in any way informing the House? Members of this House have a distinct grievance in this matter. Apparently the expedition turned out remarkably successful. It marked, as we knew, the first time on which the Air Force has really been allowed to come into its own and has fully justified the great hopes which we have of it. Nevertheless, the fact remains that this might have been the beginning of a very long, costly, and disastrous operation. There were very uncomfortable, rumours at the time that there was a larger policy being embarked upon than simply to teach a severe lesson to the Mullah to the end of time, and that was to press on into Abyssinia in conjunction with the Italians. This is a matter on which we, as a House of Commons, ought at once to take a stand. There should be a full explanation of why this expedition was commenced without any notification to the House of Commons. If you are going to be launched into new wars, without so much as by your leave, then we are faced with a very serious state of affairs, and one which I do not think the people of this country will stand for five minutes, whatever hon. Members of this House may think

With regard to the East African Protectorates, the extra sum here is to meet the excess pay of the second Rhodesian Regiment. The pay of the Army was raised some eight months ago and I should have thought that the Rhodesian Force would have received almost automatically a like rise in pay or a bonus. Why has this sum now to be asked for from this House? The Rhodesian expenditure I also think requires a certain amount of explanation. We are asked to vote £115,000 for the war charges in Rhodesia. I do not know if I should be in order—and I do not propose to try—in raising the whole matter of policy with regard to Rhodesia and the British South Africa Company. I hope that we shall be able to raise that matter when the full Colonial Office Vote comes before the Committee, but I think that the explanation of this amount should be much fuller than that which is given under the heading N. 3 on page 59. The finances of the Company and their financial relationship with the Imperial Government also require a great deal of explanation.

Lastly, about this sum of £13,000 due for Supplementary News Service under Item AA. on page 59, this is to meet the cost of continuing in a modified form arrangements made during the War by the Minister of Information for the despatch of Press messages through Reuter's Agency to our overseas dominions and colonies. Does that mean that we are still asked to find a sum of £13,000 for Government propaganda over the cables? If so, I am afraid that I shall have to move a reduction in this Vote, and I hope that I shall be supported. This is not the time to be spending money on Government spoon-fed information to our overseas dominions. Our overseas dominions have a very good news service. They have very prosperous papers which can well afford to pay for their news and, from what I know of these dominions and their papers, they are very well served, and it is quite unnecessary for us to be asked now to find money for what practically amounts to Government propaganda. There has been much too much propaganda in the last five years. Some of it has been harmless, but some of it extremely objectionable. A distinguished General said recently, that propaganda, when you came down to plain English, in too many cases meant organised lying. I hope that that is not the case. I do not think it can be in connection with the Colonial Office, over which my hon. and gallant Friend presides with so much ability. We want to get rid of any Government subsidy or Government propaganda. It is a most serious matter, and I hope we shall have a satisfactory explanation.

Photo of Mr William Adamson Mr William Adamson , Fife Western

Before the representative of the Colonal Office replies, I would like to ask for some assurance from him that of this £115,000, which is put down for "Rhodesia, Extraordinary War Expenditure," no part will go to meet the provisional claim against the Crown lodged by the Chartered Company. That provisional claim was stated by the Leader of the House in April last to amount to no less than £7,568,435. We were told by some of the principle newspapers of the country that that was only part of a claim that possibly would reach no less than £18,000,000 or £20,000,000. In answer to questions, the Leader of the House gave us an assurance that no part of the claim would be paid before the matter was discussed in this House, and my object in rising is to make sure, if I can, that no part of the Chartered Company's claim is included in the Supplementary Estimate with which we are dealing. I understand that a special Committee is investigating the claim. That special Committee has not, as yet, reported. There is one part of the note which accompanies this Supplementary Estimate to which I would like to direct special attention. It states, "The ultimate liability for this service is under consideration." Naturally, those of us who have been interested in the extraordinary claim of the Chartered Company, and have been keeping a watchful eye on it, are a little suspicious, and when we saw this note we naturally came to the con elusion that it had some relation to the claim.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Leo Amery Lieut-Colonel Leo Amery , Birmingham Sparkbrook

I hope that I may be able, without difficulty, and without detaining the Committee too long, to deal with the questions raised. As to the Rhodesia item, I hope I shall be able to set my hon. Friend's mind at rest. This particular Supplementary Vote for £115,000 is in respect of certain payments, still outstanding, to be made with regard to military operations carried on in and from the territories under the charge of the British South Africa Company and through the agency of its local administrations. As the Committee knows well, from the very outset of the War the population of Rhodesia threw itself into the fight with th utmost vigour, and sent out as high, if not a higher, proportion of its white citizens to the various fields of War than any other white population in His Majesty's Dominions. Apart from that, at a later period in the War the Chartered Company, at the request of the Imperial authorities, raised considerable, additional forces for the carrying on of the campaign against German East Africa—not only white forces but native forces—and carried out all the transport and supply arrangements of those forces. Under General Northey the forces did admirable work in circumstances of extraordinary difficulty, operating many hundreds of miles from their base, and it was to these forces that von Lettow ultimately surrendered. The operations were paid for at the time by the Imperial Government. The total amount in connection with these operations up to the end of the present month is £1,915,000, the great bulk of it in respect of actual pay of troops and transport and supply of troops. I should mention, in passing, that only the payment of these troops in so far as they were in excess of the military or constabulary establishment normally maintained by the British South Africa Company, was involved. Their normal military establishment continued to be paid by them throughout the War. Besides that, there is an item of £235,000 in respect of interest, which I shall explain later. Of the total, £1,800,000 was spent in the course of the War out of Votes of Credit. Last October there was a sum of £50,000, which was paid provisionally out of the Civil Contingencies Fund, and £50,000 out of the £115,000 for which I am now asking, is simply repayment to the Civil Contingencies Fund of the money then advanced. The remaining £65,000 is in respect of expenses still continuing in connection with these operations, in the main the payment of war gratuity and pensions to troops, more particularly the native personnel, and partly also in respect of interest. While the Imperial Government provided this money—and I do not know who else could have provided it—for the actual carrying on of the operations, the Colonial Office did contend on a point of principle that some part, at any rate, of this expenditure, in so far as it represented the purely territorial defence of Rhodesia, and more particularly Northern Rhodesia, which was the administration mainly concerned, was a matter which ought to be paid for by the local Government, or, at any rate, contributed to by the local Government. This is not a special question affecting Rhodesia; it is one which has arisen in connection with every one of His Majesty's territories where the course of the Great War has dragged some Crown colony or dependency into the sphere of military operations. I have no authority to speak, or exact information, as to the exact position in India; but I think it will be common knowledge that while India continued to pay not only her normal budget, but something well above it, yet the main cost of those operations carried on by troops levied and organised by the Government of India outside the frontiers of the Indian Empire has been paid for by the Imperial Exchequer. In the case of the little expedition of the Gold Coast in Togoland, which annexed Togoland within six weeks by the help of a purely Gold Coast native force.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Leo Amery Lieut-Colonel Leo Amery , Birmingham Sparkbrook

And the Navy, I agree—but I was referring to operations on land. The Gold Coast Government, having been put to little expense and being well-to-do, generously agreed to pay the whole of it—and not to ask any contribution from the Imperial Exchequer. In the case of the much longer and more arduous campaign, carried on from Nigeria, with the help of the Nigerian Administration, and troops levied in Nigeria, in The Cameroone—while Nigeria has shouldered the burden of the full war establishment of the Nigerian Forces the additional expenditure has been paid for by the Imperial Government. So too, again, in the case of East Africa which took part in the same operations as Rhodesia, it is still under discussion with the Treasury to what extent East Africa should, if at all, contribute to those expenses which the Great War have submitted her to. After all, it is the merest accident which part of His Majesty's Dominions found itself a theatre of war. Exactly the same thing applied in the case of the administrations under the Chartered Company, and more particularly the Government of Northern Rhodesia, which is an entirely separate administration from that of the Chartered Company in Southern Rhodesia. This question as to how far any part of this expenditure incurred by the Imperial Government should or should not ultimately be chargeable to the local Government concerned; that is to say, the administration of Northern Rhodesia—and in respect of the occupation of a little strip of German South West Africa by Southern Rhodesia—has been under discussion for some time.

The discussion will go on with the authorities concerned, and we hope before long to arrive at a reasonable settlement. But pending a settlement as to whether any of this money should be paid by the local Government concerned, and so emphasise the point and make it quite clear that the Imperial Government is still putting up some claim for repayment in this respect, it was from the outset decided to treat this money actually spent in the pay of troops and for transport and supplies as a suspense account in advance. For that reason, because it was reckoned as an advance, interest on that sum has also been reckoned and treated equally with the actual money spent at the time. That interest is interest in respect of money that has been paid to holders of War Loan and of other Government securities and will be repayable by the Chartered Company in proportion as it may be charged with responsibility for the actual main amounts which were expended by the Imperial Government in connection with Rhodesian operations. To sum up: the present Supplementary Estimate is in respect of expenditure paid by the Imperial Government for military operations, which has been treated as an advance pending a settlement of the question as to whether any of that money should or should not be chargeable to the revenue of the Rhodesian administrations. To make it quite clear to my right hon. Friend, I may say that this has nothing whatever to do with any of the claims advanced by the Chartered Company in respect of its administration of Southern Rhodesia. It has been expressly excluded in the making up of that claim, and no item of this amount or of the original total amount off one million nine hundred and fifteen thousand pounds, figures in any way or shape in the Chartered Company's claim in respect of the administration of Southern Rhodesia. I have refreshed my memory with regard to the pledge given by my right hon. Friend, the Leader of the House. It is, of course, in reference to that claim The Leader of the House said: The British South Africa Company has sent in a claim against His Majesty's Government amounting, provisionally, to seven millions odd. This claim clearly demands the closest scrutiny, and the Government will not commit itself to any payment in respect of that claim without the sanction of the House of Commons. That is common ground; we are agreed upon that. I hope I have made it quite clear that this particular item which figures in the Supplementary Estimate is in no sort of way connected with the claim of the Chartered Company in respect of the position created by the Privy Council Judgment; and, in fact, no single item in it has been included in that claim, It is entirely in respect of military operations conducted and carried out for much the greatest part at the direct request of the Imperial authorities; and it has been treated in a particular manner in order to keep alive the claim put forward by the Treasury and the Colonial Office that some portion at any rate of that money may be ultimately chargeable to the revenue of Northern Rhodesia or Southern Rhodesia, as the ease may be.

I will pass to the other items on this Vote. I may say m the first place that that as to East Africa is really more, or less in connection with this item L have been discussing It is really an agreed amount, to bring things into line as to the difference between the rates paid by the Chartered Company to the troops and the extra charge for East African rates which have been charged to Mast Africa. Though I have not looked into the point as to why it was not foreseen sufficiently early, I think it had not been finally settled as to whether they were legitimately entitled to get this pay when the actual Estimates for East Africa were drawn up last year. I should like to come to the more interesting points raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) and the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. G. Thorne) with regard to Somali-land. Here we have a Supplementary Estimate of £96,000 over an original Estimate of a grant-in-aid of £103,000. I entirely agree that that certainly requires careful scrutiny as it represents nearly double the original grant. The actual increased expenditure was £116,000, but there was a saving of £20,000 in respect to certain sums allocated to the investigation of possible oilfields in Somaliland which was not actually spent during the year. Of that £96,000, no less than £30,000 represents the increased cost inflicted upon Somaliland by the rise in the Indian rupee, a thing that has caused much trouble and anxiety to many of the administrations under the care of the Colonial Office, and, I am afraid, will continue to be an anxiety to us for some time to come. A further item is due to a cause common to the Somaliland administration and to every administration at home and abroad, and that is the necessity for granting increased war bonus in respect to the increased cost of living; and though it is quite true that the cost of the grant-in-aid has been doubled, I would remind the Committee that in Somaliland, as elsewhere, the cost of almost every article either of luxury or of necessity has increased enormously, and therefore hon. Members must not assume that we have been guilty of extravagance.

There is, however, an item of £50,000 for the very successful operations which were conducted a few weeks ago, and which were certainly not foreseen or thought of when the Estimates were framed. This expenditure is probably the smallest expenditure for a similar result which has ever been carried out in the history of the British Army or of the British Air Service. The hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull spoke very strongly about the duty that ought to have lain on the Colonial Office and the Government—for the Government were, of course, consulted—of coming to the House of Commons and consulting them before we embarked upon this expedition, he called it, though I do not think it deserves the name of expedition, but this minor operation, because, however successful, it was a very minor operation. Except for a few aeroplanes temporarily borrowed from the adjacent garrison in Egypt and one battalion borrowed from the nearest East African Colony, no troops whatever were employed beyond the little handful of camel constabulary and the half battalion of Indian troops already in the country in normal times. It was an operation of the very smallest size, and could not have been extended into the beginning of a costly and disastrous war. There were not the troops there for it, and as for the rumours of operations in conjunction with the Italians in Abyssinia, these were pure rumours emanating from Nairobi, and what surprises me is that any newspaper in the United Kingdom ever put into its columns rumours from Nairobi as to operations taking place in Somaliland. As I say, these operations were of the smallest character in regard to their dimensions, though they were immensely successful "in their results, but the, success could only have been achieved on one condition— and that was absolute secrecy up to the very moment when the aeroplanes flew and discharged their bombs over the Mullah's armed camp at Jidali. Every precaution was taken for absolute secrecy throughout, and I do not suppose that more than a very small number of people knew anything about it. Not, a single package but was carefully camouflaged and labelled as something else, and I do not suppose that more than a handful of people actually on the spot even in Somaliland knew anything about it until the operations actually occurred. Of the expenditure on these operations, £36,000 was the extra cost to the little air detachment of operating in Somaliland, as compared with the ordinary peace expenditure already sanctioned while they were in Egypt.

How splendidly successful these operations were has already been detailed in this House, and I need say nothing more about it. The remaining £14,000 was for the military part of the operations, and more particularly for a slight increase to the strength of the camel corps. I hope in connection with this I may be allowed in passing to pay a tribute to the magnificent work which has been done during the last five years by the camel constabulary of Somaliland organised just before the War. This little force was the main defence of the Protectorate against the Dervishes throughout all the long years of the War, a little force of 500 men, who had to face very heavy fighting indeed in the early months of the War, and who did so with astonishing success.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Leo Amery Lieut-Colonel Leo Amery , Birmingham Sparkbrook

Yes, Sir, because the £14,000 is the increased cost; but I will pass from this point with the statement that they have done magnificent work. They have kept our Dervish aggression and enabled the western part of the Protectorate to be peacefully administered throughout the whole War. They were admirably handled, very mobile, and they asserted a moral supremacy over the Dervishes which stood them in remark- able stead when they had to exploit that moral supremacy during the last few weeks. About the recent operations I will only say that, led by Colonel Ismay, they captured Jidali as soon as the aeroplanes had done their work. They then pursued the flying Mullah, and I think it, will be an interesting example of the mobility of the force that in that pursuit they covered 140 miles in two and a half days. When a few days later Tale was taken, and the remnant of the Dervish force escaped, a section of the Camel Corps pursued them hotfoot on the 10th of February. On the 11th they caught up one important party of the Dervishes and accounted for the whole of them, either in killed or surrendered. On the next day they accounted for the rest, except four men, and they were the Mullah and three of his devoted companions. They had detached themselves from the main body of the Dervishes and made their way to a waterhole, called Dodhais, close to the Italian frontier. When they got there they found only enough water for one man and one pony. The Mullah watered there and his companions made their way back some 20 miles to Gerrowei. One of these companions surrendered to us a few days later and reported that, on going back the next day to Dodhais, all trace of the Mullah had been lost. Whether he had attempted to make his escape into Abyssinia or had perished in the desert, or what has become of him, of course, we do not know.

9.0 P.M.

To return to the more purely financial aspect of this question, we do expect that as a result of these operations, which cost £50,000 in one year, we shall make an appreciable annual saving on the military expenditure in the Protectorate. I think we shall still need the camel constabulary to patrol the country, but I believe it may be possible to do without an Indian detachment there; and although at this moment I cannot give an exact estimate, I hope we may be able to save something like £20,000 or £30,000 a year on this Vote, and, in so far as the rise in the rupee means an increased cost of troops paid at Indian rates and of anything bought in India. I hope the saving may be found more substantial. There will be this further item to set against this expenditure which I am now defending. As a consequence of the settled administration of the western half, the Customs have gone up steadily from £23,800 in 1914 to £'71,000 in the present year, and I see no reason why, with a settled condition of the whole country, the Customs and general revenue should not increase very considerably. In passing from this Vote I should like to say that I think very great credit is due to Mr. Archer, Commissioner of Somaliland. It is to his consistent advocacy that this particularly successful operation was due, added to his enthusiastic co-operation on the spot: and what pleases mo more than all is that now he has the opportunity, so long desired, of showing his activity and energy in the work of peaceful development, as the result of which I hope it may be possible, before many years are out, for Somaliland no longer to be a burden on the British Exchequer, but a self sustaining portion of the British Empire.

With regard to the Estimate for Supplementary News Service, which is paid through Messrs. Reuter, during the War it was essential, not as a matter of propaganda, but as a matter of giving full information on matters of Imperial interest, that important events, which were not always of local, topical, or press interest, should be fully sent to foreign countries and His Majesty's Dominions, and, after the War, since April, 1919, this service has been sent to the Dominions and to the Colonies through the Colonial Office, and made chargeable to the Colonial Office Vote. It is called a supplementary service, because it is matter which is sent by Reuter's Agency as supplementary and additional to their ordinary service. There is no question of a subsidy to Messrs. Reuter's to send a service, but they simply charge the extra cost of this additional service. We do not direct the material to be sent. What we do is this. At the end of each month we scrutinise what they have sent, and if it is matter of really Imperial interest, over and above what they normally send to their newspapers which pay them for their service, we then sanction the expenditure in this connection.

Photo of Commander Hon. Joseph Kenworthy Commander Hon. Joseph Kenworthy , Kingston upon Hull Central

May I ask if this news service is given priority over commercial cables? I daresay the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows the reason for this question. There have been many complaints by commercial firms in the country that they cannot get their cables over to the East and elsewhere because of press messages having precedence, and it would be very useful if we could have information on that point.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Leo Amery Lieut-Colonel Leo Amery , Birmingham Sparkbrook

I do not think, so far as this service is concerned, that it is given any preference or precede[...]ce over the ordinary Press service sent out. While we did consider it a matter of real Imperial importance that the doings of this House and of Parliaments in other parts of the Empire should be fully known in every part of the Empire, at the same time we felt that this was not a matter which, in time of peace, ought to be paid entirely by the Exchequer of this country, and negotiations have been set on foot with the various Governments in the Empire, as a result of which the service which is now run is one to which substantial contributions, amounting to considerably more than half the service, are paid by the Governments of the Dominions of New Zealand and South Africa, and by the various British Colonies in East and West Africa, in the Mediterranean and the East. The total expenditure now being incurred, and which has been incurred since the beginning of the year by the Imperial Government, amounts to £900 in respect of the Mediterranean and the Eastern service, £775 in respect of South, East and West Africa, and £1,500 in respect of New Zealand. The total annual expenditure, therefore, is just over £3,000, and of this present estimate of £13,000, something like £1,500 will be repaid in respect of the last three months by the Dominion Governments concerned, and the future expenditure under present arrangement will not be at the rate of £13,000 a year, but at the rate of something like £3,000 a year.

The Australian Government has not so far contributed to this scheme, but negotiations are in progress, and, if it does contribute, then, though there will be no addition to the expenditure on the part of this House, that contribution will make it possible to add very considerably to the number of words sent to every part of the Empire. As regards Canada, negotiations have also gone on for some time, although the actual service to Canada ceased in October last. The Canadian Government have been discussing the matter with the Canadian Press, Ltd., which is their newspaper association, and I believe that, as a result of meetings of that Association in November last, they have put forward a definite proposal to the Canadian Government, and we are awaiting something about that proposal from the Canadian Government. I hope I have made clear that, as regards the greater part of this £13,000, it represents the winding-up since the War, and that the very small amount for which the Exchequer will be asked on behalf of this Government will be substantially contributed to by the Governments of every Dominion to which this service goes; that this service is not in any sense in the nature of a propagandist Government service, but is simply directed to enabling that sort of news which is of real political value to be sent to every portion of the Empire, and is purely information sent in a fuller form than the ordinary commercial Press agency would send it in if left entirely to its own devices, and if it did not receive some assistance from the various governments in order to give greater amplitude in this respect.

Photo of Mr William Adamson Mr William Adamson , Fife Western

I understood the hon. and gallant Gentleman, in his reply to say that the item here of £115,000 had no connection with the claim of the Chartered Company to which I called his attention, I understood him also to say that, in his view, the claim of the Chartered Company was for administrative charges. I would just direct his attention to the fact that in the list of items of the total claim of the Chartered Company there is one item—charges connected with the War, £1,450,000. That is in a total claim of £18,000,000 odd pounds that the Chartered Company was supposed to be making against the Government, Before we pass the Vote I wanted to make sure if the hon. and gallant Gentleman knew that that item was in the claim of this Chartered Company when this statement, was made. All I want is to make sure, that no part of the sum of £115,000 that is now under discussion is going to liquidate the claim of the Chartered Company which is at present being inquired into by a Committee and of which the Leader of the House has informed us not a single penny will be paid until the House has had an opportunity of full discussion and inquiry.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Leo Amery Lieut-Colonel Leo Amery , Birmingham Sparkbrook

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me for asking him where and when this claim of £18,000,000 appeared, because I have never heard of it. I only know of a claim of £7,000,000 odd which does not include any of this expenditure on the War.

Photo of Mr William Adamson Mr William Adamson , Fife Western

The claim of £7,000,000 odd is a provisional claim and is only part of the total claim that is to be made upon the Government. I am quoting from a list of items that are known to be in the total claimed.

Photo of Commander Hon. Joseph Kenworthy Commander Hon. Joseph Kenworthy , Kingston upon Hull Central

I beg to move that Item B—[Somaliland, £96,000]—be reduced by £1,000.

I beg to draw the attention of the Committee to the statement that we have just heard from the hon. and gallant Gentleman about Somaliland and to his reasons for undertaking this expenditure and embarking upon this highly successful little war without coming to this House Fifty thousand pounds have been spent, and as wars go, it is a remarkably small sum, and the outcome has been very successful. I have no doubt that it was highly necessary to undertake this expedition, and, before moving to reduce the Vote, I left it to the hon. and gallant Gentleman to explain why the House was not consulted, or at any rate was not informed of the matter. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has told us that it was absolutely necessary that there should be complete secrecy. I may not know very much about politics, but I know a little about strategy. The very soul of strategy, naval, military, or aerial—the root principles are all the same—is secrecy. The excuse of secrecy could be used for every military or naval operation. It is always necessary, if possible, to keep your plans secret, and, if we allow this excuse to go without some protest, it will be possible to embark upon warlike operations, and practically upon a war, in some corner of the Empire on the plea of secrecy without informing the House. I submit that is a very grave state of affairs. In this desert the Mullah has no cables and there is no wireless. Rumour travels very fast in savage countries, but it would have been perfectly safe, at any rate when the expedition had started, to have informed the House, or, if the House had not been sitting, to have issued an official communiqué. That is the very least that we could have expected. The expedition was small, it was successful and it was necessary, but, if we are to have any sort of control over the Executive, we must raise a protest against the defence put forward by my hon. and gallant Friend that he could not inform the House about this expedition until a question was put by an hon. Member, because it was necessary to keep the operations secret.

I submit that this is a very grave constitutional question, and I ask the support of hon. Members irrespective of party. The whole cry in the country is that the House of Commons is losing its grip on the Executive and is losing control of finance and of policy. The Opposition are twitted in the country—I am glad to say that personally I am not twitted—with not raising our voices against what the people outside call the Government folly. We are told: "You are the Opposition, and you do not oppose this and that mad adventure." Here is a thing upon which we can seize, and I do beg the support of hon. Members. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman be allowed to have his point. it will be possible, on the plea of secrecy, to embark upon any expedition anywhere. It will be possible for some bellicose First Lord of the Admiralty to embark upon some Naval expedition, and the defence say that in the case of the Somaliland Expedition, 1920, the House accepted the excuse of secrecy. It will be said: "We could not possibly inform the House, or our plans would have been given away." Hon. Members can support me with complete safety, because there is no question of patriotism. The expedition is admitted to have been necessary, and it has been successful. We are, however, up against a grave constitutional issue, and I hope that I shall be supported in my Amendment.

Photo of Major Sir Arthur Morrison-Bell Major Sir Arthur Morrison-Bell , Honiton

I must say-that I think the hon. and gallant Member is making rather too much of the constitutional point. If he thinks for one moment, he will realise that a Debate in this House would have given away the whole show.

Photo of Commander Hon. Joseph Kenworthy Commander Hon. Joseph Kenworthy , Kingston upon Hull Central

I particularly said that we should have been informed when the expedition had started.

Photo of Major Sir Arthur Morrison-Bell Major Sir Arthur Morrison-Bell , Honiton

I do not think that makes it very much better, because there would have been still a chance of the vital point of secrecy being ruined, and, instead of the expedition costing £50,000 and being wonderfully successfully, it might have been one of those Somaliland expeditions running into millions. To say that this expedition could be cited in support of sending the Navy out on a huge expedition is stretching a point too far, and I hope that the hon. and gallant Member will not persist in his Amendment to reduce the Vote on such very flimsy ground.

Photo of Colonel Ralph Glyn Colonel Ralph Glyn , Clackmannan and Eastern

I rise also to express the hope that the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy), who is a great student of Naval strategy, will not stick to his Amendment, because I happen to know something of the proceedings in Somali-land, and if ever there was an example of good work done to save human life, it was that small operation. It seems to me that if every small expedition which is within the purview of the Executive to carry out is to be brought before this House and debated, it will put the lives of our British soldiers in positive danger. I cannot imagine anything that would be looked upon with greater horror by the men of our forces over sea than that any expedition upon which they are likely to embark should be debated in the House of Commons. It would mean that statements would be made, and there would be danger to the forces taking part. A statement in this House would give a certain amount of warning to those about to be attacked. If the hon. and gallant Member were to put that forward for the Services, I think he would find that their opinion was that it would be detrimental to the Service interests I think those engaged in the Services are the most competent judges, and the way in which this operation was carried out is an example of what should be don't in the future.

Photo of Sir Charles Edwards Sir Charles Edwards , Bedwellty

If the hon. and gallant Member goes to a Division I shall go into the lobby with him. If this is the way that war can be carried out, I object to it. Those who are responsible should inform the people through the representatives in this House of what they are about to do and consult this House. I am against all wars, and therefore I am against this policy of secrecy.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Leo Amery Lieut-Colonel Leo Amery , Birmingham Sparkbrook

I am sure that the hon. Member who has just spoken, as well as the hon. and gallant Member for Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy), are under a wrong impression as to the nature of this operation. I quite agree with the Constitutional position that we ought not to have complete secrecy when embarking upon any war, however small. But, as I stilted some weeks ago, and repeated tonight, these operations against the Dervishes have been going on continuously for four or five years. They threatened to become very serious this winter, and that is the reason why the Commissioner was anxious to meet the activity of the Dervishes, who had removed their head quarters towards the coast, and who threatened to exterminate one of the tribes. The War being ended, we happened to have a spare battalion and some of our aeroplanes in the neighbourhood, and, as he intended to give us a surprise, we thought it best to give him a surprise instead. We did not know in what part of the Protectorate an attack might come. It was not a question of embarking on a new war at all.

Amendment negatived.