I regret that the Noble Lord should have thought proper to repeat this question, which he addressed to me the day before yesterday as a supplementary, and to which I hoped I had suitably replied, and that he should think that my hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) would consent to preside over a Committee which was debarred by sectarian considerations from giving relief to the victims of persecution and outrage. The reply to the first part of the question is in the affirmative, and the hon. Member for Chelsea informs me that relief is awarded to properly qualified Catholics in exactly the same manner as to Protestants. The members are: Protestants 152, Catholics 143, and 88 whose religion was not stated. I hope the Noble Lord will see fit to express regret for the imputation into which he has been led.
I assure my right hon. Friend I should not have put the question if he had the civility to reply to it the other day. It contains no imputation against the hon. Member for Chelsea; in fact it was at his request I put it down.
The Noble Lord must not interrupt. He is entitled to put down the question, but this is a question which might easily have two meanings, and I think the Colonial Secretary was perfectly justified, the question having been put, in giving an emphatic disclaimer, which is what the Noble Lord really desired.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware there is a misapprehension upon this point? I, as Chairman of this Committee, was very anxious the Noble Lord should put down this question, in order that there should be no misunderstanding at all, as to there being any distinction made between Roman Catholics and Protestants.
I was, of course, ignorant of the arrangement between the Noble Lord and the hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare), but, as a matter of personal explanation, I took great exception to the suggestion that I, as the Minister responsible, or His Majesty's Government in general, would endeavour to draw a distinction on the grounds of religious belief, between persons who were entitled to assistance in distress. I did regard that as a wounding and offensive suggestion—
—which was also an absurd suggestion, and I am very much surprised that after the whole basis of that suggestion has been cut away, we do not get a more courteous response.
It is quite clear there has been a complete misunderstanding as to the purport of the Noble Lord's question. The Noble Lord was perfectly justified in putting the question down.