MR. Lloyd George and M. PoincarÉ.

Oral Answers to Questions — Genoa Conference. – in the House of Commons on 30th March 1922.

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Photo of Mr Herbert Asquith Mr Herbert Asquith , Paisley

(by Private Notice) asked the Prime Minister whether an agreement was reached at the Boulogne Conference, or otherwise, between the Prime Minister and M. Poincaré as to the agenda of the Genoa Conference; if so, whether, and to what extent, this agreement limits the subjects to be discussed at that Conference?

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN:

Among the subjects discussed at Boulogne by M. Poincaré and the Prime Minister was the Genoa Conference, and the two Prime Ministers exchanged ideas upon the scope and conduct of the Conference. As I stated yesterday, I cannot deal adequately with this matter within the limits of an answer at Question time, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will consent to await the Prime Minister's speech on Monday, in which he proposes to deal fully with this point among others. I have drawn his particular attention to my right hon. Friends inquiry.

Photo of Mr Herbert Asquith Mr Herbert Asquith , Paisley

I beg to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he does not think, as Leader of the House, that it is disrespectful to the House of Commons when the Government themselves have invited a Debate, that on matters so vital to the due consideration in that Debate as an agreement reached or alleged to have been reached between the Prime Ministers of Great Britain and France, we should be dependent until the Debate is initiated by the Prime Minister on second-hand sources of information, and should not be told what we ought to be told, i.e., what was actually arrived at?

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN:

I hope that neither my right hon. Friend nor the House will think I would be guilty of any discourtesy, but my right hon. Friend has himself illustrated the difficulty of dealing with this matter by questions and answers. His question has become a speech, and his speech a denunciation. It is not for want of respect to the House, but out of regard to the public interest, that I must, speaking with the responsibility of a Minister, ask the House to allow us to defer our explanations on this matter until the Debate, in which they can be given fully and fairly.

Photo of Mr Alexander Lyle-Samuel Mr Alexander Lyle-Samuel , Eye

Is it not the fact that the reason the right hon. Gentleman cannot answer the question is that he does not know the answer?

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Martin Archer-Shee Lieut-Colonel Martin Archer-Shee , Finsbury

May I ask if, in view of the fact that the House is to know nothing about this matter until Monday, the right hon. Gentleman will not reconsider his decision not to give more than one day for the Debate?

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN:

I cannot, in the state of public business, allot more than one day to it. It is unusual for the House to seek to anticipate a Debate for which a day is allotted by a series of questions on the very subject of the Debate.

Photo of Mr Neil Maclean Mr Neil Maclean , Glasgow Govan

As the right hon. Gentleman is not prepared to give a full day for the discussion of this important question, will he be prepared to move the suspension of the Eleven o'Clock Rule on this subject, which is more vitally important than many other questions for the purposes of which he has made such a Motion.

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN:

I am prepared to give a full day, and if it be desired by any of the parties in the House that the Eleven o'Clock Rule should be suspended, I shall be willing—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"]

Photo of Mr John Gretton Mr John Gretton , Burton

Would the right hon. Gentleman consider laying Papers which may be available to Members on Monday morning, so that, at any rate, we may have a little time to consider the points that will be raised?

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN:

The Papers which the Government think necessary for the discussion are already laid.

Photo of Lord Robert Cecil Lord Robert Cecil , Hitchin

If there was an agreement reached at Boulogne—I do not know whether there was—does not the right hon. Gentleman really think that we ought to have in our possession the text of that agreement?

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN:

My Noble Friend is trying to persuade me to do what I have already said that, speaking with the responsibility of a Minister, I do not think it is in the public interest that I should do. I must respectfully decline to answer my Noble Friend's question.

Photo of Viscount  Curzon Viscount Curzon , Battersea South

25.

asked the Prime Minister whether he can now state exactly how the staff of the British Empire Delegation at Genoa will be composed; and whether he can give any estimate of the cost involved?

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN:

Figures for the staffs of the Government Departments concerned were, given in my answer to the question put yesterday by my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Ormsby-Gore).

The following are the figures for the Delegations from the Dominions:

  • Australia.—One Delegate, Staff of four persons.
  • Canada.—Two Delegates, Staff of four persons.
  • South Africa.—One Delegate, two Advisers, Staff of three persons.
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  • New Zealand.—Will be represented by the Imperial Government until their own Delegate arrives, and, I believe, will rely on His Majesty's Government for anything further that is required.
As regards the last part of the question it is not possible at the moment to furnish an estimate of the cost of the British Delegation to the Genoa Conference. The Delegation will be the guests of the Italian Government and, so far as is known at present, the expenses falling on the British Exchequer will consist mainly of the travelling and incidental expenses of the British Delegation, in eluding the cost of telegrams, and so forth.

Photo of Viscount  Curzon Viscount Curzon , Battersea South

Is not the staff which was announced yesterday about twice the amount which was considered to be necessary for Washington? Does not the Foreign Office staff amount to 20, whereas there were only seven for Washington, and why do they really require such a large staff at Genoa?

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN:

Because the circumstances of the two Conferences are wholly different. I ought, perhaps, in giving the figures yesterday, to have broken them up into what I may call the executive and advisory staff and the ancillary staff. We are allowing three to five Ministers—three principal Ministers—24 experts, and a secretarial staff of 15 people. Then there are 51 others, who include translators, cipherers, clerks, official reporters, typists, messengers and so forth. At Washington the scope of the Conference was far less, the Conference was hold in English, and the British Delegation had the services of the ordinary staff of the British Embassy in Washington to supplement the special staff which they took with them.

Photo of Sir John Butcher Sir John Butcher , City of York

Cannot we supplement this staff also by help from our Embassy in Rome, instead of sending out all these people?

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN:

I doubt very much whether we could get any material help from our Embassy in Rome at the Conference in Genoa, but we have no desire to spend more on the staff than is necessary. At these Conferences the British Delegations have, I think by general consent, been well equipped hitherto, and I should be sorry to see them undertake this difficult work without proper assistance.

Photo of Mr Joseph Devlin Mr Joseph Devlin , Belfast Falls

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether the "cabin boy" will be included in the staff?

Photo of Mr Alexander Lyle-Samuel Mr Alexander Lyle-Samuel , Eye

What is meant by the word "experts"? Could we have the names of these experts, and in what they are expert?

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN:

No, I do not think it is necessary that I should give the House the name of every civil servant who is called upon by his Minister to go to Genoa to give such assistance as may be required.

Photo of Lieutenant Alfred Raper Lieutenant Alfred Raper , Islington East

26.

asked the Prime Minister whether the League of Nations have been invited to take part in the forthcoming Conference at Genoa?

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN:

No, Sir. The Council of the League have, however, authorised the Secretary-General of the League to place at the disposal of the Genoa Conference such technical information desired by the Conference as the League may be in a position to supply, and the desirability of maintaining a close co-ordination between the decisions of the Conference and the functions of the League, when these are found to come in contact, will be borne in mind.

Photo of Lieutenant Alfred Raper Lieutenant Alfred Raper , Islington East

Is it not absolutely illogical to set up this costly and efficient organisation if it is not to be utilised when a special occasion of this sort arises?

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN:

I think not. It is a little difficult to deal with these matters within the limits of an answer, but there were reasons why it appeared to the Supreme Council at Cannes that a special Conference would be more likely to lead to good results in this case than a meeting called under the auspices of the League of Nations.

Photo of Lieutenant Alfred Raper Lieutenant Alfred Raper , Islington East

Is it not a fact that the reason previously given by the Prime Minister why it was undesirable to call a meeting under the auspices of the League of Nations does not now exist? Was not the reason given that the United States of America and the Soviet Government

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

The hon. Member is making a speech.

Photo of Viscount  Curzon Viscount Curzon , Battersea South

35.

asked the Prime Minister whether the Government intend to commit the British Empire to any decision at Genoa without Parliament having the opportunity of signifying its assent or otherwise?

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN:

No, Sir.